Coutinho, transfers and the rage

Everybody is angry about Coutinho, and this potential story.

Barça supporters are screaming about the stupid board, overpaying for the wrong player, etc.

Liverpool supporters are screaming at Barça for tapping up their player.

It would all be silly, except for psychology. As supporters, we have a lot tied into the club that we love, including notions of identity. If you are a Liverpool supporter, you love a club with a deep vein of tradition, pride and accomplishment. It’s a big club. You want and need to believe that there is status with that, that a club shouldn’t just be able to swoop in and buy one of your best players.

Instead of getting angry at the player, or the circumstances that cause that player to get restless, it’s easier to rail at the suitor, who has simply enough asked the player if they are interested in a move. Anger at the player? No. Why? He’s part of the club, some innocent who was perfectly happy until that Blaugrana rake crooked his finger from a perch atop piles of cash. “Stop tapping up our player.”

The best way to keep a player is, for most clubs, to ensure that they are happy. For a while, it means money. After a greater while, it means chances at big trophies if the player is at a certain level. In this day and age, players are mobile. The days of a single-club player are over. A top-tier player is always looking to move. More money, better chances at trophies, better status, a better job. That is what being an in-demand employee is about.

Employees never get angry at, say, an accounting firm that offers a colleague a better job. They have cake and coffee, and wish the person well. The psychology of a football supporter is different. That is OUR player. How dare someone try to lure them away, forgetting about the circumstances of an in-demand, mobile employee.

Every club “taps up.” Liverpool just signed Van Dijk. Do you think that he woke up one day and said, “Gosh. I think I want to head for Liverpool.” Agents talk to people, who talk to other people, and word gets out. A player is available, for the right price. And things happen, or they don’t. Then media outlets go wild, and supporter ire escalates.

From the Barça supporter perspective, the club is overpaying for Coutinho, if rumors are true. How dare they? But every transfer rumor has a number of hurdles for supporters, including their own hopes and dreams. For Barça this is particularly complicated, because it isn’t just about whether a player can improve the club, but whether the player can bring back a bygone era. Everyone wants a controller, the “next Xavi.” Coutinho isn’t that player so dammit, what a terrible transfer.

Like Paulinho was.

Transfer rage also has context. How many culers were angry at Thiago Alcantara for leaving the club for Bayern Munich? There might have been one guy, somewhere, but it is doubtful. Because the board sucks, and Guardiola is Guardiola. So it was everybody’s fault that Thiago left, stuffed in sack with a gag over his mouth and bundled off to Munich in the dead of night.

Vilanova didn’t play him enough. the board didn’t value him, the technical staff is stupid. Nobody screamed about Guardiola tapping up Thiago by saying that it was him or nobody, a powerful statement to make by the best coach in the game, who just landed at one of the best clubs in the world. Thiago left for a better job, and it was the fault of everyone except the migratory, ambitious employee.

It’s why transfer dudgeon and anger is nonsense. Players don’t care. They want a better, or different job. Or they think they might have a better shot at getting something that satisfies them at another club. There is no romance for them, even as for supporters, the romance is everything. The past is better because the outcome is known, even as transfer season opens the window on hope, that success and trophies are the right purchase away. Supporters want to keep every player that they value, sell the ones that suck and buy the players their club needs to succeed.

But if every club’s supporters want the same thing, it isn’t hard to see all that hope and longing working at cross-purposes. None of that logic stays the rage and anger. Damn that club for turning our player’s head, say the supporters of the club whose player is in play. That player would be happy at our club forever if those moneybags hadn’t filled his head with nonsense.

Culers are different. Unique in a way. They spent as much time being angry at the board as PSG for throwing money at Neymar. And of course they were angry at Neymar, a player they never trusted, who was always considered not fully committed to the club, so damn him. Neymar leaving for PSG also chipped at the armor of supporters who want their club to be the biggest ever. Those clubs don’t lose a star player. And the anger renews.

Or, for many culers, our board sucks, so every good player should leave so that they can fail, and resign in shame. Then the club can emerge, phoenix-like, from the ashes of neglect.

But at the next transfer rumor, try something: Put yourself in the shoes of that player, and ask yourself what you would do. More money, bigger company with advancement opportunities, nicer city. What would you do, absent any other mitigating circumstances or narratives?

Players do what they do, money and opportunities do what they do, the game does what it does. Yes, you have a set of ideas about your club, so you rage against anything that threatens those notions. It’s natural. It’s human nature, just as it is our wont to resist detachment, resist logic.

Meanwhile, life does what it does.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

8 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    January 1, 2018

    Sorry to make the first post off-Topic, but I find myself in Barcelona right now, and would ask for some advice on good bars to watch the game against Celta in. If possible, not too crowded, as my girfriend will come as well and isn’t too fond of packed bars filled with men screaming at a TV screen. Thanks a lot for any suggestions!

  2. Justice love
    January 1, 2018

    Sorry to say, barça board aren’t “stupid” as some supporters and the noise media think, but rather the board has been following the policies and principles of the club. I have my stance on the Coutinho transfer issue which I do not see the need for such senseless prince on an injury prone and unproven player. S. Roberto is at the same level of him , even above Coutinho especially when Sergi is in the midfield. Spending €150′ €140 million on Coutinho is as useless as used toilet roll. Robert Fernandez and the should get Arthur Melo, Yurry Mina, and Griezmann which the total cost will not €160 million for such three quality players and the wage bill will be at its lowest. Neymar Jr has the right to say no to PSG but he went , that’s history now because you can’t keep an unhappy player. It’s because of Neymar that’s why THE GREASTEST LIONEL MESSI lost the last two ballondor to an undeserving player because Messi always want to appreciate Neymar. Let’s support the board and the team in all situations and not just succumb to some noisy supporters and the media. Fc barça should not throw money away on just one player who Sergi Roberto is better than him.

  3. realdox
    January 2, 2018

    nice work kxevin,thanks for all your inspiring articles it really give me another insight on things..
    so to the topic of the day the player we need in our team is a creator to relieve Messi and Andres iniesta their burden,we have a controller we all scream for in our team is just that because no one do what he does for us ,we can’t free him to be true controller that he’s developed into (you need to look at our first goal against Madrid to understand my point) ..
    I will love to speak on Arthur first for how mighty you guys think he’s,I really don’t think there’s anyone here who has watched him play week in week out . all you know about him is that YouTube compilation and probably a match or two which you watched and you have been going around anointing him as the next iniesta for all I know that dude may be Denis Suarez with Brazilian flares,not to take anything away from him as I would be glad if my team can get them all but if we are to talk about priority I think I will choose coutinho in a heart-bit ; why ? because he’s a proven player and he really have the technical ability to play at the level required at Barcelona, also I have watched him week in week out and if you watch him too you will know he’s a big game player… the only player whom we are not looking at at the moment is eriksen…that dude is a baller…
    so unto griezman issue,I will love if we can get him but relating it to coutinho issue they are both cup tied ,so it’s a matter of who is available and what will improve the team which I don’t see griezman upgrading our team but coutinho can…so you all know my stance there..and if you have been paying attention to griezman he love to roam the Same area as leo …..is Roberto not better than authur??????

  4. ooga aga
    January 2, 2018

    Good news, today Dembele got the medical all-clear. He could play this week!

  5. luisthebeast
    January 2, 2018

    Happy new year to all!
    I find it weird that many people never watched Arthur but they say “yeah lets pay 50m”.
    Coutinho is Top quality,most we have watch him many times and the price it s not Barca fault but others who pay 80m for a CB or 60 for a RB.

  6. luisthebeast
    January 2, 2018

    So yes if Walker costs 60m Van Dijk 80m and Stones 60m then Coutinho will cost 150+.

  7. realdox
    January 3, 2018

    coutinho has been a top performer since Rodger’s day he dismantle Pellegrino’s mancity, Wenger’s arsenal,boss man united mildfield on his own and he has done that consistently..the only reason I’m going with him is because he’s a drug we have seen how it work when taken compare to Arthur melo who hasn’t perform on a top stage before.
    No way in the world coutinho worth hundred plus but does virgil van dik worth 75million ? someone without a champions league medal or lukaku for such ridiculous amount? market is what it is now..in between comparing Roberto with coutinho is something I would not want to do because they are different player to me and if you want to compare them based on their mildfield performance,we all know coutinho is a creator that sergi may never be and Roberto is an indispensable player that coutinho will never be… I’m trying hard to stay away from the transfer rumor as kxevin suggested but I find myself in it anyway​..

  8. Víctor
    January 3, 2018

    I think Barcelona get bad press for these transfers because they are perceived as “bullied purchases”. The other club doesn’t want to sell the player, so Barcelona insists on the matter until they give in. Kinda like what happened with Fabregas.

    Granted, both Fabregas and Coutinho want(ed) to come play at Barcelona, but still those clubs feel disrespected on how things came to be. Sure, they got the money and it was legal and all, but it wasn’t their intention. Same thing happened to us with Neymar: it wasn’t Barcelona’s plan to sell him, to let him leave the club, but PSG forced that transfer and he was with them all along. That’s why PSG got bad press and all… sure thing, many Barca fans railed on the board because of those events… unjustly, Barca’s board didn’t have much to do on that one… that’s why I don’t criticize them for that, there just wasn’t that much they could do to prevent Neymar leaving.

    That and, besides, Neymar leaving was, in reality, a blessing for the team. We didn’t lose the second best player at football because he just isn’t the second best football player. Hell, he wasn’t the second best player at Barcelona either. Maybe he was the 4th or 5th one, but he wasn’t in the top three that’s for sure.

    So, as for Coutinho, yes, it may feel like a “bullied transfer” but word is that Liverpool’s board promised him to “not shut him the door” if he behaved during last semester and he did. So now it’s Liverpool’s board time to respect their word.

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