It is almost transfer season. And this is true even as transfer season really never ends in football as whispers become rumors become concrete things or not, become shirt swaps and joful/sad/puzzled fans.
A high-quality Twitter account that is more than worth your time, @santapelota, wrote a piece on Griezmann that contained a great deal of useful thoughts in general. The second paragraph is masterful:
First, that the outlay matching or improving on Antoine Griezmann’s buy0ut clause directs resources away from areas of the team, namely midfield, that need addresssing in the form of restoration, an unavoidably ideology-laden preoccupation at a club like FC Barcelona.
With a elegantly assembled collection of words, the writer summed up so much that is complicating matters in this transfer window. My less elegant summation is that people know what they know and what they think is best. The problems arise when they place that above what the club needs, complicated by the fact that we really have no freakin’ idea what the club needs.
Let’s take, for example, a midfielder. You have to look at now, the B team, who is in the pipeline and how they are progressing at Juvenil level, the odds that person will become an issue down the road, as well as price of the transfer in the context of club relationships, other squad needs and fiscal complexities such as new stadiums, potential new sponsors and global branding.
Mes que un midfielder, right?
Many supporters have a way they want the club to play, and players who they think will support that way of playing. As a consequence, we becone wedded to the idea of those players and that way of playing, at the exclusion of everything else.
In addition to being a bon vivant and an example of how to always live your best life, Paulinho should have taught us quite a lot about what we want, and squad needs. The 29-year-old midfielder came to Barça from China in a deal that will rile people up decades from now, for EUR40m. Leaving aside that 40 is the new 15 in today’s market, it was the idea of him that vexed and still vexes. This idea existed in layers.
— Philosophical necessities
Valverde wanted him because he watched him in China and with Brazil, and understood that in his notion of an idealized Messi structure, you needed a player who would facilitate the Argentine’s dreams of winning and scoring bags of goals. This means you needed a husky, physical player who could help press to turn possession close to the opponent’s box, withOUT having the entire team press like demons because structure at the back was also important, given that two of the team’s attackers weren’t going to be making defensive contributions, as they did when Guardiola unleashed hell on world football.
That conception also needed a player who would keep the ball moving, who wasn’t going to take a pass, caress it, note how many laces there are per inch in the sphere at his feet, then send it along. Wall passes. Pam. Messi takes, runs, feeds to that player and keeps running because he knows the player is just a human backboard that will give him the ball right back. That was Paulinho. And that is all that Paulinho was.
Removing all of the ideological stuff from the equation, and also revealing a future post, Paulinho was the transfer of the summer for Barça, while also being a reviled player because of the reality of his necessity. He was a player who was good for the team, even if he wasn’t good for anyone’s notion of their ideals of what their version of the best team needed. But the best team is defined by available personnel and tactical realities.
Sure, you can set up a team of capering sprites, but if all that group sees is low blocks, what does it need then?
Transfer season is about idealism. “Let’s get Eriksen, and Thiago, and Pjanic, and Alaba, then De Jong and De Ligt. Perfect.” Considering what the team really needs isn’t any fun, really, because we don’t know. So it reduces us to intellectual inaction in many ways because … well … dunno.
The best Barça team was the one that had Paulinho in the midfield. Overall performance declined when he suffered the foot fracture, then the fatigue-based form fracture. That team, for various reasons, never returned. Had you said that to someone in July when Paulinho was offered up as an option, you would have been run out of town on a rail. But that was what happened. Was it a perfect solution? Nope. But it worked.
Ideas of transfers become ideas that supporters embrace as extensions of themselves. To dispute the player is a direct attack, rather than just a piece of theory. “Brown shoes or black?” It’s that kind of a question, rather than any sort of a direct attack on our notions of what we know about football and our ideals of the team. Because we don’t know until the player comes, and we know.
Thiago Alcantara is the name on most lips. If he were to return to the club, everyone would be giddy because of what he represents as much as the skills that he brings to the side. On Twitter the other day, someone suggested that Pjanic was a better Thiago than Thiago as well as being more durable. You would have thought they said that Martians are on Earth right now. Because of ideas and ideals.
Both are fantastic players. Both aren’t the only player, or the only solution to a midfield dilemma that just got a bit more complicated thanks to a ruptured set of muscle fibers on Carles Alena. Their potential effect, as well as those of a bunch of other folks, is worth discussing. But the biggest value of transfer season is that it gives supporters something to do. It’s like fantasy football for NFL fans. Wheeee! That’s all it is, which is worth keeping in mind amid the blizzard of rumors about this or that player being available. Theory works best as such, rather than ideology.