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BTL: Why Josep Bartomeu's defence of Barcelona's abysmal transfer window is nonsense

FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu Arrives At Madrid High Court
Oh Josep, Josep.
Anirudh Menon
FEATURED COLUMNIST
Modified 05 Sep 2017
Feature

Josep Bartomeu is a man under intense pressure. The President of Barcelona is facing a no-confidence motion after Augusto Benedito, one of the club's most influential socios, initiated the process on La Liga Deadline Day; a day that was full of unfulfilled promise for Barca's fans the world over.

While the club haven't had the worst transfer window ever (a backup winger, a strong central midfielder, a right back and a promising wide forward were all necessary and timely signings), it is like so many commenters have pointed out - the fact that the club themselves promised so much more that has made it out to be so underwhelming and create air of negativity that now surrounds the Camp Nou.

Oh, and the fact that Neymar Jr. decided he should up and move to Paris didn't help matters any.

After a slightly farcical press-conference in which the Barcelona sporting director Robert Fernandez tried explaining what happened (and may even have fudged the truth a bit by saying Liverpool demanded €200 million for Barca's target numero uno, Phillippe Coutino), Bartomeu took it upon himself to try and explain it in an interview with trusted Catalan daily, Sport.

Talking about Neymar leaving, he admitted it's never nice to see a "good player" leave before starting his defence:

"You can't be too pessimistic. It's an opportunity for Barcelona to break the trident and to bet on the collective play. [It's an opportunity] to end the strength of the trident. It's been really good but it's had consequences. It's an opportunity to play a return to collective football in midfield, which is traditionally Barca's strength."

An opportunity to end the strength of the trident? MSN was arguably the greatest attacking trio assembled in the history of the game, and there will have to be some fingers pointed if one them - the one who's been promised the throne, at that - decides that the club isn't good enough and then leaves for a club of the ilk of PSG.

Regardless of who's had money in the past (Manchester City have been this rich for at least half a decade now), no one leaves the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid when in their prime... if ever anyone needed an indication that Barcelona are slipping off their plinth, this is it.

We could have forgiven the President his empty optimism, though, if he and his board had actually done something to strengthen their midfield ("traditionally Barca's strength").

They went for Marco Veratti with unabashed enthusiasm and miserably failed in their attempt to lure the Italian to the Camp Nou and managed to make mortal enemies with Paris Saint-Germain. This may or may not have reflected in the Parisian's successful attempts to get Neymar, but it certainly did reflect on their flat refusal to sell Angel Di Maria to the Catalans.

They had a deal with OGC Nice and Jean Michel-Seri - a player Xavi said reminded him of himself - but then backed out of it with abrupt suddenness (leaving the player a mental wreck in the process).

Arguably the hardest blow of them all, though, came via Liverpool. After wooing Phillippe Coutinho for over two months, after having publicly announced that signing him was just a matter of time... well, they didn't. (and left him a mental wreck too)

All these players could have helped shift focus back to the middle of the park, and none of them came.

So what does their midfield, that traditional Barca stronghold, read like now?

Andre Gomes, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Ivan Rakitic, Denis Suarez, Sergi Roberto, Rafinha and... Paulinho.

Well, that's the same as the one that so utterly, miserably failed last year (with a little more mileage taken out of the great Andres Iniesta's legs) plus Paulinho - who as good a player as he is (he's being dangerously underestimated at the moment, if his performances for Brazil are anything to go by), is not the messiah that will magically turn back time and bring back the glory days to the Barca midfield.

If he was genuinely serious about strengthening the midfield, why didn't he actually go ahead and you know... do it?

"[Neymar's] exit allows us to strengthen the model, to not fall back on the trident all the time. Plus, we've got money. We've earned €105m and there's more to invest in football, in assets... Let's see what we do."

What they did was try and blow that whole load - and then some - on Coutinho; and when they finally understood they weren't getting him, they turned their attentions to Di Maria, and if certain reports are to believed, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Lemar (both of which are admittedly reports that need to be taken with a pinch of salt)

Sure, 105 million is a big amount, and it can/should be invested wisely - but this is just putting a PR spin on retaining money that they simply couldn't spend due to their botching-up of the transfer dealings they were involved in.

"Internally, there's no pessimism. People think Neymar's exit weakens the team... The opposite. We have to take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen the team."

And... they didn't.

Let's not forget how they conveniently decided not to activate Inigo Martinez's relatively paltry €32 million release clause; because why strengthen a central defence that has been crying out for reinforcements for years now!

"Qatar and Abu Dhabi, two countries that have two clubs. If Bayern [Munich], [Manchester] United, [Real] Madrid or Arsenal buy a player, you know [the money] comes from football. But these two clubs distort the market."

But this.. this is the one that strikes me as most odd, and dare I say, most nonsensical.

Manchester City and PSG distort the transfer market?

Who made a player, an untested 20-year-old who's had one half-decent season in a mid-table Ligue 1 side (Rennes) and a decent season in Bundesliga (for an underperforming Borussia Dortmund) the second-most expensive player in the history of football?

Ousmane Dembele's transfer is reported to be in excess of €145 million with all the add-ons included and as good, and as promising, a player as Dembele is, if that isn't distorting the market, I don't know what is.

If that isn't enough, Nelson Semedo - a right back - is set to cost €50 million once all the add-ons kick in.

Oh, and don't give me this "PSG bought Neymar and inflated the market" hullaballoo... these are also the same guys who shelled out £35 million of good, solid, cash to acquire the services of Andre Gomes. Last year.

Barcelona have been over-paying to beat out the competition for years now - what difference does it make where the money comes from as long as it's being invested, and sensibly so, in football? This elite snobbery, the sense of entitlement, the blatant hypocrisy, that some members of the so-called establishment is a touch too hard to digest at times.

Sure, Bartomeu had to defend himself after the fiasco that was this summer, but resorting to cliches and half-truths doesn't help anyone. Least of all him.

P.S. Has Lionel Messi signed that contract yet, Josep? The one you said he'd agreed to way back in July?  Not Jorge Messi... Lionel. 

After all, the official statement from your club seemed to indicate it was a done deal -

"FC Barcelona and Leo Messi have agreed on a contract renewal that will keep the Argentinian at the Club until June 30th, 2021. The deal will be signed in the coming weeks when Messi returns to the team for pre-season training.

The Club is very happy with both the renewal and the commitment of Messi, the best player in history, who has played his full professional career at Barça and has led the team to an era of extraordinary success, the likes of which has never been seen in world football...."

<insert glowing praise of the great Argentine>

"....But Leo Messi will not stop there - the Argentinian is in one of the best moments of his career and still has a lot more left to give, which is music to the ears of all Barça fans who will get to continue marvelling at his greatness for at least another four years."

Has he signed the contract yet, Josep?

Published 05 Sep 2017
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