The Hard Tackle analyses Barcelona’s transfer business and gives its verdict of the Catalan giants’ performance in the summer transfer window.
The summer transfer window is behind us and with it, has come to an end an extremely frantic two-month period that saw some of the craziest deals of all time being hashed out. After all, very few would have fathomed clubs breaking their transfer records in the middle of a pandemic that has ravaged the finances of most, if not all, clubs in the world.
Even fewer would have envisioned the prospect of Cristiano Ronaldo returning to Manchester United despite the unending rumours to that end. The most bizarre of transfers, though, saw the end of Lionel Messi’s time at Barcelona, with the Argentine wizard making an emotional departure from Camp Nou.
Speaking of Messi and Barcelona, and the summer transfer window was far from a pleasant period for the Blaugrana, who saw their two most prolific players depart. The odd saga surrounding Emerson Royal has also left a sour taste whereas their struggle to offload deadwood could have its knock-on effects in the season to come, with Miralem Pjanic the only such player loaned out.
Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the summer transfer window was an eventful time for FC Barcelona and everyone associated with the club. And now, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Catalan giants’ business in the summer transfer window in 2021 and delivers its verdict on their performance.
INS: Eric Garcia (free transfer), Sergio Aguero (free transfer), Memphis Depay (free transfer), Luuk de Jong (loan), Yusuf Demir (loan), Emerson Royal.
OUTS: Lionel Messi (free transfer), Juan Miranda (free transfer), Matheus Fernandes (free transfer), Monchu (free transfer), Emerson Royal, Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Alena, Antoine Griezmann (loan), Miralem Pjanic (loan), Francisco Trincao (loan).
MVA (Most Valuable Addition): Memphis Depay
Barcelona have signed a raft of players in the last few months and for a long time, they were sweating over the prospect of being able to register each of them in La Liga. In the end, though, the Blaugrana have succeeded in doing so, with Sergio Aguero the latest to be registered following the decision of Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets to take pay cuts on their current deals.
Aguero is sure to play a major role in replacing some of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann’s goals when he is eventually fit enough to make his Barcelona debut. On the opposite end, Eric Garcia is a player who is rated quite highly by the decision-makers at the club, and could well be the long-term successor for Gerard Pique. However, no player brings more value to the squad than Memphis Depay.
A player who has come a long way since his struggles to adapt at Manchester United, Depay is now a force to be reckoned with in club football in Europe. At the same time, the 27-year-old has also become perhaps the single most influential player for Netherlands, where it was current Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman who guided him through his upwards trajectory.
With the duo reuniting at Camp Nou, the Barcelona faithful can and should expect big things from the Dutch international. In fact, Depay has already made a bright start to the 2021/22 season, having scored twice and provided a solitary assist in three games so far.
With Griezmann no longer at the club and Messi long gone, it goes without saying that Depay, with his all-round abilities, will be the go-to man for Koeman, with his chemistry with compatriot Frenkie de Jong something to be exploited. That he cost nothing in way of transfer fee only means that Barcelona can derive oodles of value from him over the course of his stay at Camp Nou, which will coincide with his peak years.
Shrewd Work (A Departure That Is Ideal For All Parties): Junior Firpo
Barcelona have made a decent enough profit from the sale of Emerson Royal, but his departure leaves the right-back slot in a bit of a precarious state again. Antoine Griezmann’s departure means Barcelona have taken a massive chunk of wages off their books, but his exit will have a major effect on their output in the final third, probably for the worse.
However, if there is a sale that makes sense from a financial as well as a sporting perspective, it is the exit of Junior Firpo. Now at Leeds United, the player is already the first-choice left-back for the Whites, meaning his fortunes have improved instantly, with the player himself praising Marcelo Bielsa and his methods.
At the same time, Barcelona have managed to rake in €15 million from his sale. And while the amount is not astronomical by any stretch, it still goes some way in helping them balance their books while also getting an unwanted player out of Ronald Koeman’s squad.
That Firpo’s exit has coincided with the advent of Alejandro Balde means Barcelona did not need to sign a replacement for the 25-year-old, as they had one within the club. And now, Balde can be groomed in the coming season, with Alba taking him under his wings.
As for Firpo himself, his qualities align well with the outlook that Bielsa has from a sporting view, meaning he could become quite an asset for Leeds in the 2021/22 season and in the years to come. All in all, this was a deal that worked out well for everyone involved.
The Big Miss (A Player Who Should Have Left): Philippe Coutinho
Barcelona finally managed to get Miralem Pjanic off their books, even if temporarily so, after two months of elongated speculations. While the Bosnian did not get the transfer to Juventus that he so dearly wanted, Barcelona will be relieved by the fact that Pjanic is no longer at Camp Nou, at least for the foreseeable future.
However, at the same time, the Catalans have failed to offload a couple of unwanted players who do not add much value to Koeman’s team. One such player is Samuel Umtiti, whose injury woes have been a nightmare for him as well as the club. However, it is their failure to part ways with Philippe Coutinho that could haunt Barcelona.
For one, the Brazilian international will be raking in a healthy amount in wages without really featuring much in the coming season. And if he does take the field and makes a certain number of appearances, Barcelona would allegedly be liable to pay an additional bonus payment to Liverpool, although they have so far denied the existence of such a clause.
Even if such a clause does not exist, Coutinho brings little to no value on the pitch for Barcelona, especially in the current system, where Pedri has already usurped him. So, in essence, the Blaugrana have a high wage earner, who will spend at least half a season on the bench for the most part, if not the entirety of 2021/22.
Final Verdict: A MIXED BAG
From a sporting perspective, the summer transfer window of 2021 has been nothing short of an abject failure. After all, Barcelona have seen Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann depart Camp Nou, with Luuk de Jong bizarrely being one of the replacements for the duo, all while Martin Braithwaite is still at the club.
Yes, Memphis Depay is likely to be a tremendous addition while Sergio Aguero could chip in with a healthy contribution if he can maintain his fitness. But it goes without saying that Barcelona have lost a considerable amount of goals and creativity despite the addition of Depay and Aguero.
In addition, the Blaugrana failed to sell Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho while Miralem Pjanic has only departed on loan. So, from a broader view, Barcelona appear to be far worse off at the end of the summer transfer window than they were when it opened a couple of months ago.
However, it is important to note that with the departure of Messi and Griezmann, they have managed to get a significant amount of eye-watering wages off the books. And at a time when they are in the doldrums on the financial front, that is surely a step in the right direction as far as their long-term future is concerned, from a solvency point of view.
Having said that, the road is long for Barcelona and they still need to do a whole lot more to remain afloat in the years to come. From a purely sporting perspective, they do not seem to be in the pinkest of health, despite a decent enough start to the season.