And as we roll into another transfer window, Barcelona are once again linked to a plethora of different superstar players, each more expensive than the other. But this has somehow become a norm rather than an anomaly. Sure, the Catalans are very much still regarded as one of the giants of European football and have been going almost two decades back now but they never resorted to such transfer targets before. There is no doubt they will continue to argue with the referees at when every decision goes against them, but you get the feeling other things are changing.
Yes, you had your Ronaldos and Ibrahimovićs, even your Henrys and Suarezs but even if you add all of those together you would hardly get the sum the Blaugrana are reportedly considering to give in order to get their prodigal son, Neymar, back home.
The Galacticos, they would say in Spain, and Johan Cruyff would probably turn in his grave. Of course, it’s easy to talk about La Masia and how it was abandoned and how it’s not what it used to be but you have to understand that the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets and co. are very much the exception, the golden generation and the one in a million occurrence.
To expect an academy, even if it’s one of La Masia’s reputation, to constantly produces the next Xavis and Iniestas, then that club would no doubt have a dominion over the footballing world. And while it did produce such talents, Barcelona were indeed at the very tip of the mountain.
But the problem with these galactico signings is not really in the money. Yeah, sure, all those figures and zeros in the contracts make your mind go crazy and stomach turn but if it’s for the right player or rather, the right profile, then those big money signings could potentially be justified. But it’s been a while since Barcelona chased someone who was a necessity rather than luxury.
Back when they signed Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid – a strong, physical, attacking player with a great mindset, eyebrows were raised and despite his obvious quality, the signing failed because Turan, as good as he might have been for Diego Simeone, was not built for Barcelona. And this is, believe or not, hate it or love it, a real thing. Some players, no matter how good they are or how famous they are, simply lack that something to be a good fit in the Catalan capital.
The same could be applied to a number of other teams that have a distinct identity. But this brings us even further to our point and Barcelona’s main problem that is rooted to their skewed transfer policy – identity.
Identity is a rather strong word, is it not? It’s also one that is thrown around far too much but in Barcelona’s case, it is very much real. Or is used to be, at least. Ever since Josep-Maria Bartomeu rose to power, things changed.
The usual Barcelona prototype player was thrown out of the window and the last piece of that Barcelona DNA, another term overly romanticised and overused, might perish once the great Lionel Messi calls it a day.
And it all stems from transfers, power, money, corruption, selfishness. It all stems from bad upper management and wrong ideals and goals. Year after year, Bartomeu insists on big-money signings, players that will get him the votes, players that will get your blood boiling just by hearing their name, let alone seeing them in the Blaugrana shirt. But while they do serve a certain purpose they, often times, have no real place in the team. And, of course, due to their sheer quality, they sometimes get the job done – barely, while struggling and often times, not in the prettiest of ways, but they do. And that’s why it works.
It works as a short-term fix, as a band-aid on an open wound and as a temporary solution. But in the long run, it can only do the club harm. So Barcelona’s problem is very much not their shift to the galactico signings. No, that was a necessity because of the demands the modern market imposes.
But signing galacticos only because they are, well – galacticos, will be the club’s undoing. Signing galacticos because they are big enough names to distract the masses from the failed management, signing galacticos because they will help you win the next election or because you need a statement signing – that will be their undoing.
So to conclude, Barcelona are not failing because they are buying big-money players. Nowadays, if a player is any good, he will cost a lot. The market demands it and modern football dictates that it has to be so. But they are failing because they are buying players according to their names rather than merit and regardless of whether they need them or not.
It’s like buying a cheaper player or missing out on a star name because you had different priorities is something to be ashamed of. And once again, they don’t have a proper left-back to push or replace Alba, they don’t have a number nine who can take over Suarez and their situation on the right-back position is no sunshine and rainbows either. But what do they do? Chase Griezmann and Neymar, both of whom spat in their faces recently.
But that sells papers and kits, excites fans, and gives you votes. And until that particular problem is fixed, there’s nowhere else to go but down. It’s time to wake up.