Barcelona’s season was a rousing success, with two more trophies in the bag. The ins and outs at the club had a major impact on the season, but which deals stood out the most? THT reviews
The 2017-18 campaign was quite a memorable one for Barcelona. With Ernesto Valverde taking over the managerial role at the start of the season, there was an air of uncertainty around the Camp Nou owing to the manner with which the previous term under Luis Enrique had ended.
Yet, Lionel Messi and co., rose above it all and reclaimed the La Liga title from the clutches of arch-rivals Real Madrid, losing just a solitary league game over the course of the campaign, while also bagging the Copa Del Rey as well.
It would only be fair to say that the transfer dealings that happened, both incoming and outgoing, over the summer and the winter windows had major repercussions on how the campaign panned out in the end for Barcelona. And here at The Hard Tackle, we review three such deals that made the biggest impact on the club’s season.
Not many saw this one coming. At Barcelona, Neymar had attained cult status since joining from Santos FC and had struck up one of the most fearsome partnerships the game has ever seen alongside Leo Messi and Luis Suarez. The fabled trio of MSN had achieved great success and reached great heights during their time together at the Camp Nou, so much so that, it was hard to imagine the trio would ever separate.
Alas, it wasn’t to be though, as the Brazilian attacker, keen to get out of the shadows of his illustrious partner Messi, decided he needed to go on a journey of his own. And thus began the chain of events that would result in the previous world record transfer shattered. Neymar had signed for French heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain in a mind-boggling deal worth €222 million.
This was seen as a huge setback for Barcelona, after all, the 26-year old was seen as the natural heir to Messi, if and when the little magician decided to call it a day on his career. He was the future of the club, but in a moment that had redefined the entire transfer market, the Catalans had lost their prized star. It was a psychological setback for the club, one that would take time to recover from.
However, the huge sum that they received in transfer fee allowed the Blaugrana to spend in excess of €300 million on players such as Ousmane Dembele, Paulinho, Philippe Coutinho (more on him later) and more. While the departure of Neymar hurt Barcelona and left them without a natural replacement for Messi, it also helped the Catalans strengthen the squad and bring in new players who would go on to play a vital role in their success and will continue to do so in the future.
It might not have been as sensational or hair-rising a deal as the one that saw Barcelona shell out €105 million for Ousmane Dembele, but the signing of Paulinho from Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande for a fee of €40 million, was a shocking one indeed.
Here was a player who had struggled to make an impact ever since he had left his homeland in the summer of 2013. Having endured a difficult two-year spell in England with Tottenham Hotspur, the midfielder had departed to the cash-rich CSL in 2015 in order to get his career back on track. And while things did improve for him in the far east, he was a player who many deemed not good enough to play for Barcelona.
Yet, when the season kicked off, the 29-year old took everyone by surprise with some influential displays for the Catalans and had soon established himself as an indispensable member of the team. Indeed, there was a point in the first half of the campaign when the Brazilian international’s goal tally in the La Liga was more than that of Real Madrid’s attacking trident of Karim Benzema, Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo combined.
Paulinho’s performances did taper off towards the end of the campaign, and he finished the season with 9 goals and 3 assists in 49 appearances across all competitions. But, the impact that he made in his debut season at the Camp Nou and the way he has managed to silence the doubters deserves plaudits.
A transfer saga that dragged on for months together, when Philippe Coutinho finally joined Barcelona from Liverpool in January this year, it brought an end to one of the most public, long drawn pursuits in the transfer market in recent years.
The 25-year old Brazilian had been a wanted man at the Camp Nou since the summer window, post the departure of Neymar to PSG. Barca came up with repeated offers to sign the playmaker, but were knocked back by Liverpool time and again. The Reds did not yield even when the player handed in a transfer request, shooting it down just like they had done Barcelona’s bids.
However, the two clubs finally reached an agreement in the winter window and Coutinho was a Barcelona player, for a fee that could reach £142 million. Since arriving at the Camp Nou, the 25-year old has already made a solid impact, netting 10 times and setting up 6 more in just 22 games in the league and cup combined.
The Brazilian’s ability to play in a multitude of positions, coupled with his vision and creativity and the eye for a goal has made him a valuable player for the Catalan outfit in his short time with the club. And his importance at the club will only continue to rise next season, now that Spanish pass maestro and club legend Andres Iniesta has left the club to join Japanese outfit Vissel Kobe.
Coutinho has the talent and the ability to fill in the giant shoes that will be left vacant by Iniesta’s departure and if his first five months at the club are anything to go by, he will grow into an integral part of this Barcelona side in the years to come. Can he achieve the greatness and the longevity that Iniesta achieved though? Only time will tell.