FC Barcelona is facing an economic crisis, and the COVID-19 situation has worsened the situation. FC Barcelona was under dire financial stress way before the coronavirus situation, and there is no denying this fact. The fall started a long time ago, as the decisions taken by the board didn’t help the club. But the economic crisis began in its real sense when Neymar left. FC Barcelona had 222 million euros to spend, but a board with no vision for the future wasted every single of that money.
Failed Signings and Wrong Investments
Neymar was sold to PSG in one of the most expensive deals ever to go through in the world of Football. He was sold for a whopping 222 million euros in August 2017. That deal gave FC Barcelona the economic advantage to spend that money across the pitch, but it had a significant disadvantage. The sale broke the football transfer market as the transfer fees became more and more inflated.
But the Neymar position was never thought of. As soon as he left, Barca splashed around 150 million euros on Dortmund’s youngster Ousmane Dembele. But that never worked out. The fact that Dembele was injured in his very first start for Barca and was ruled out for four months gave the hint of the things to come. The desperation to fill the Neymar void led Barca to spend another 140 million euros and buy Coutinho from Liverpool. He doesn’t struggle with injuries but never found out his place in the squad.
Griezmann’s transfer for another 120 million euros was not to replace Neymar but was more of finding a replacement for the likes of Luis Suarez. But, signing a then 28-year-old to replace Suarez was never a good option. The transfers that were made under Bartomeu were never planned. It was just splashing money on players we never needed.
The story doesn’t stop with the expensive players we have bought. Andre Gomes, Aleix Vidal, Lucas Digne, Arda Turan, Yerry Mina and many more didn’t have the quality to succeed at Barca, but funds were wasted on them. The priority was never set, and money was splashed on positions and players we never needed.
FC Barcelona and Misplaced Priorities
FC Barcelona has spent millions to replace Neymar, and not a single one of them worked out. In that process, FC Barcelona forgot to look at other positions which needed reinforcements. Barca needs defenders and creative midfielders in there team right now. Right now, Messi is forced to drop in the midfield to provide that spark which we lack. The defence has its problems. Alba looks the shadow of his past. We still require a permanent replacement for Dani Alves at the right-back position.
Other than Pique and Lenglet, there is not a single defender in our squad we have bought which can be a replacement for them. Umtiti looked strong at the time of joining, but since his knee injury, he hasn’t recovered. Only long term we have in our squad is De Jong who can take the place of Busquets. Other than that, after spending millions, we lack a replacement for many players who have left us. And those who were bought never worked out or were never Barca quality.
Acquisitions like Vermaelen and Yerry Mina were never the players who would Barca had in their plans. The former has always struggled with injuries, and Yerry Mina claimed he couldn’t handle the pressure.
The Role of La Masia
The Economic crisis at Barca can be said as a self-made one. The decisions of the board have led to this difficult situation. But could have La Masia saved Barca from this economic crisis or at least saved some of Barca’s money. Here is an analysis of how Barca could have promoted La Masia youngsters rather than spending money on players who were never worked out.
1- Junior Firpo(€30m) vs Marc Cucurella – Barcelona bought Firpo in the summer of 2019 to be a backup for Alba. He took the place of Lucas Digne who left Barca in 2018 for Everton. FC Barcelona still hasn’t found out the players who can provide competition to Alba for the Left Back position. When we had an academy graduate to play a role for a second choice left-back, why was Firpo bought? Firpo was good at Betis, but he hasn’t shown anything significant here at Barca till now. Those 30m would have been saved if Barca had kept Cucurella.
2- Coutinho(€160m) vs Puig and Alena – (This comparison is just in the positional sense) This may sound absurd to many, but there is a reason why I point it out. Coutinho was bought to give that creative spark. His preferred position is a No 10. But, he was forced to play as an LW where Barca wasted him as a player. This is not a comparison between Coutinho to Puig and Alena. It is more of the comparison of the position these players plays in. Another great player destroyed by Barca.
Puig after the restart of the season has shown that he can be the heir to the Iniesta’s position. Alena hasn’t till now worked out for Barca but latest reports claim he is bound for a first-team spot next season. Coutinho shouldn’t have been bought as the replacement for Iniesta. He is a No.10, but Messi plays that role. For that, La Masia should have been trusted. Coutinho was bound to fail as Iniesta’s replacement. It was all a waste when we see Coutinho today at loan to Bayern.
3- Martin Braithwaite(€18m) vs Collado and Abel Ruiz – This can be termed as a direct comparison. Braithwaite was an emergency signing Barca were allowed to make outside the transfer market as Dembele injured himself in February. Braithwaite was never a direct replacement for Dembele. He mainly plays as a striker but can also play on the wings.
Alex Collado has the same type of profile. He is an attacking midfielder but can also play as a winger. If we had the task to replace Dembele, why buy a new player? And if we have bought Braithwaite, why has he played only 403 minutes out of a total 1,260 available. Alex Collado would have been the perfect temporary replacement for Dembele. The fact that FC Barcelona spent 18 million euros and now is selling him shows there was no planning in this.
Not just this. Braithwaite was the best player Leganes had in there team. But, Barca nabbed him in controversial circumstances. This left Leganes with a void, and they didn’t even have the time to find his replacement. Leganes were relegated this season. This is a kind of act which do not go well with our motto ‘More than a club’.
Defensive Options – We all know that Barca has struggled in the defence for many seasons now. Pique and Lenglet are the best options we have. Umititi hasn’t worked out. Vermaelen never had the chance to be a success here. Why didn’t Barca looked to the La Masia? We had players like Araujo and Cuenca who know the Barca way. Barca wasn’t able to lure De Ligt to the Camp Nou. We cant take the risk of spending another 100m on a defender and experience what we did with Coutinho or Griezmann or Dembele.
Araujo and Cuenca are one of the best defensive prospects from La Masia along with many others. In a recent interview, club president Bartomeu said that Puig, Araujo and Ansu Fati would be promoted to the first team. Under Bartomeu, the outcome from the La Masia has decreased drastically. The Neto-Cillessen deal also shows that instead of promoting Peña from the B team, FC Barcelona was more determined to balance the books.
La Masia has a trend to give the best midfielders. La Masia is the same academy which gave us greats like Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets who conquered the footballing world. The same trend looks like it is repeating itself. Youngsters like Ilaix Moriba, Monchu and Puig give Barca hope that there midfield’s future is not dark. But everything comes at a cost. And this time it needs time and trust. The fact that Setien has trusted Puig so much gives Barca fans hope that he can do the same with these two.
The very thought that Barca will always provide with the best players is a bit exaggeration. In Pep’s Barca not everyone was from La Masia. But with the current market, as Barca go in the market to buy someone, the fees will be on a high end. So, the current pandemic gives Barca the best opportunity to promote youngsters than buying expensive stars and running the risk of them not working out.
La Masia is different. The same philosophy which is taught in the junior teams is the same as the first team. This is the reason why La Masia graduates can easily walk in the first team and leave their mark. In the documentary ‘Take the Ball, Pass the Ball’, Jordi Cruyff said this about the youth system –
“There is a reason why youth players at FC Barcelona are the one who best adjusts to the first team at Barca. It’s not a coincidence. It’s not because they work with special machines that no other club has. It has to do with the way they are brought up, their football values. What is the real essence of our football? Is it a result or is it how we play? It’s how we play. And then, if you do that good the results will come.”