Once Neymar was sold to PSG, Barcelona found themselves with €222 million to spend. Players like Mbappe, Dembélé, Coutinho, and Dybala were some of the names thrown about. The one thing all those players had in common was that their respective clubs were not going to let them go so easily. They were going to take advantage of the transfer market and try to get the most money as possible.
Lo and behold, they’ve done just that. While these players have been mentioned as being on Barcelona’s radar, only Coutinho and Dembélé were actual targets. Mbappe was deemed as too expensive and Dybala is a player that, as good as he is, would not necessarily fill the void left by Neymar. Neither transfer was going to be easy as teams know how much money Barcelona have and their need to find a replacement.
To sum it up, with the money Barcelona received from the Neymar transfer, there was going t be many names linked to the club with the caveat that the club was going to have to overpay for these players. Both as a result of the current state of the transfer market and Barcelona’s necessity to not only replace Neymar, but to maintain their reputation.
It’s because of all that money that people were wary of what Barcelona were going to do. The club needed to be careful and spend the money wisely. It marked a first time in a long time that someone took one of Barcelona’s best players away from them. We all know the last time that happened it was Real Madrid signing Luis Figo for a then record, €60 million. Suffice to say that Barcelona failed to spend that money wisely.
Sid Lowe wrote an article recently making the case that perhaps Barcelona’s best move would be no moves at all. It’s definitely worth a read as he writes about the other side of the Figo transfer. About how Barcelona spent that money and how it was wasted on players who contributed little to the team. Players like Overmars, Petit, and Gerard Lopez were brought in. Barcelona overspent and had to get spend more money in the next transfer window to try to make the team competitive again.
In the end, Figo leaving plunged Barcelona into years of mediocrity until Joan Laporta and took over.
After reading Sid’s article, I came to a similar conclusion in that it would not be the worst thing in the world if Barcelona didn’t sign any more players. I expressed that opinion on Twitter and actually had positive discussions with other fans. Inevitably, though, I got replies that were simply name-calling but it was nice to be able to converse with people who had a differing viewpoint.
But what does this have to do with Paulinho?
A report from the Daily Mail claimed that Barcelona has all but signed Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande for €40 million.
The reaction on social media was unanimous in its incredulous. It’s a potential signing that makes absolutely no sense. The Brazilian is 29 years old playing in a less competitive league in China. Add to that, the players that Barcelona already have in midfield are better than the one they are trying to sign. He may very well be productive in the short-term, but in a squad where the core are all close to 30, Barcelona cannot afford to sign another aging player. They have to be thinking long-term.
That’s another reason why the signing is concerning.
Going back to Sid’s article and the aftermath of the Figo sale, the team went into panic mode. Joan Gaspart, the Barcelona president at the time, found himself in a tough position.
Gaspart stated, “They give you loads of money. Loads of it. And instead of saying what I should have said — ‘gentlemen, this season whatever will be will be’ – I tried to rescue the situation, so I went on to the street to sign. That was a disaster: everyone knows you’ve just lost Figo, they know you’ve got money, they know you’re obliged to sign.”
The Gaspart era is widely seen as one of the worst tenures in Barcelona history. The current board could be well on it’s way to challenge for that title. If not for a once-in-a-generation players like Xavi, Messi, Pique, Iniesta, and Busquets, the state of the club, both professionally and as a brand, would be in a much worse state.
Since Rosell took over, the management of the club as a whole has had to deal with issues that damaged their image. Much, if not all, of the problems was caused by the president and advisors themselves. From the tax case and irregularities involved with the Neymar transfer to being served a transfer ban due to questionable signings of academy players, Barcelona’s reputation has taken a hit as well as their philosophy with regards to player signings.
When Laporta named Pep Guardiola as first team manager, attention was refocused on promoting players from within and giving La Masia graduates a shot. As years went on, that faith and attention has dwindled. It’s debatable as to why this occurred and it’s not just one thing. It’s a combination of things such as the manager not having enough faith in the youth players or the players not being good enough to crack the first team.
Another reason also has to do with that once-in-a-generation talent still on the team. The odds of players coming up being the next Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, etc. are slim. It’s because of that improbability that many La Masia players would rather try their luck at other clubs. It’s an understandable decision too. Bartomeu even called it a “problem.”
When discussing comments made by Xavi with regards to La Masia and players not getting a chance, Bartomeu disagreed with the Barcelona legend and said the current situation was a problem created by players like Xavi. Many saw it as an idiotic comment but he was right. It’s difficult to see youth players, at the moment, displacing Messi, Pique, Busquets, or Iniesta on the first team. Again, with the quality in front of them, players decide to leave Barcelona in order to get a chance.
It’s because of Bartomeu’s comments and the perceived re-focus of La Masia under Ernesto Valverde that signing Paulinho would be a mistake. Academy players understand that they are unlikely to start every game and be ahead of players like Messi. But when they see the club sign someone like Paulinho, the promise or opportunity of being giver a fair shot dwindles. Why shouldn’t they take offers from Premier League teams if they’re not going to be given a shot?
After Barcelona was given their transfer ban, the club came out with a battle cry of “La Masia no se toca!” in order to show support since academy players also faced punishment for Barcelona’s incompetence.
While Paulinho may turn out to be a footnote in Barcelona’s history, he could very well be a turning point in the direction of the club.
The old saying goes, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” While fans remember the past, it seems like the current board does not.