Adeu, Sergi Samper

What have you wanted so much you could barely think straight? Did you get it? What kept you from getting it?

Midfielder Sergi Samper, at age 24, is finished at FC Barcelona before he even started, in one of, if not the hardest luck story in first-team lore. Even Rafinha shakes his head at this one.

For the unfamiliar, and there are probably supporters who came to the club in the time between when Samper was an astonishing youth talent and an injury-hobbled player, there was a time when Sergi Samper was a sure thing. He came to Barcelona as a kid, and spent his entire season at the club. In the same way players such as Carles Aleñá and Rafinha Alcantara resisted everything, wanting only Barça, Samper was devoted. He was also talented.

A Barcelona midfielder needs to be able to pick a pass. But not just any ol’ pass. That player needs the style and vision to be able to see into the future, to assess the dynamic of play and instantly, by reflex, send the ball to the right place at the right time. Samper was one of those mids. Line-splitting passes, lovely balls that broke defenders like crystal, his game was remarkable. The way people talk about Riqui Puig is how they talked about Samper.

But Fate wasn’t interested in any success story for Samper, who in three years has missed almost 80 matches for his various teams due to various injuries. And those injuries would pile up. He would come back from one, suffer a hard tackle and bang. Another injury. In the longest, he was out for 186 days.

When he wasn’t injured he had awful luck. He was loaned to Las Palmas and everyone was excited about the possibility of his being shaped by the dynamic, football-oriented Paco Jemez. Then he was fired, and Samper languished under the different direction of Jemez’s successor.

Then he went on loan to Granada, where he suffered another injury before returning to Barcelona, where he had minor knee problems, then a sprained ankle that kept him out for a month, then came back from the ankle only to suffer a calf injury. The sight of him, sitting or laying on the pitch, with a face that wondered just what he had to do to catch a break, became a common sight for those who followed him.

Football can be brutal. So can luck. We talk about “hard luck” players, but what do we mean, really? Maybe a player who we never got to see fully developed, who spent so much time injured that he never got the chance to develop, and now is leaving what is really the only club he has ever known, at age 24, when he should be staking out a space in that club’s midfield?

Yeah. That.

People had doubts about his ultimate ability to make it at Barcelona, something that is neither here nor there at this moment in time, because sometimes your heart just hurts for someone who wanted something so much, but everything — player moves, coach moves, a team’s performance, his body, luck — let him down.

He had a press conference, and the official site wished him well, echoing those sentiments over social media platforms as well. People might think that’s a lot for a player who never really got to feature for the club that he loved, but credit to the people who understand what culer to the bone means, who every now and again get the feeling that exists in that connection to Barça. And it’s beautiful.

His next stop will be Vissel Kobe in Japan, where he will be reunited with Barcelona icon Andres Iniesta. Finally, something good is happening for him. With many transfers or contracts that are rescinded, we think good riddance, you weren’t good enough anyhow. Samper is different. We never really got to know how good he could be, never really got to know him and his abilities as a Barcelona player.

Wanting something is the hardest part, even harder than not getting it, because there is closure in that failure. Sergi Samper didn’t fail at Barcelona. He never got the shot. But for that love, that resilience, that persistence that kept him going through all the crap, he’s 100 percent Barça, culer to the soul. And we should wish for him the best of everything.

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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.