Blind-sided by the departure of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona’s summer descended into a farce with numerous key targets to replace the Brazilian not signed.
Fans were promised many and in the end signed few so we examine the stars they missed out on.
On the face of it, Liverpool were never going to sell the Brazilian even if Barca were to go anywhere near their apparent €200m.
But there is also a theory that, in fact, contrary to claims by Albert Soler, Barca’s director of institutional relations, the Catalans never properly wanted the Brazilian – at least at the prices quoted by the Premier League club – and instead made a series of half-hearted pursuits to satisfy fans, knowing full well they would fail, preferring instead to bank half the Neymar money having signed Ousmane Dembele.
The end result is the board appear to have been busy, Liverpool have made a strong statement but the one caught out is Coutinho himself; the 25-year-old so upset at the breakdown of the transfer with Brazil team-mate describing his “great sadness”.
As interest in Coutinho petered out, Barca bizarrely turned their attentions to Di Maria. Strange because of his Madrid associations and the likely backlash from supporters already furious at the inactivity of a board already on borrowed time.
Reports indicate personal terms had been agreed but PSG were playing hardball over the fee, demanding €70m with Barca only prepared to go as high as €40m for the 29-year-old.
Again, was it a face-saving exercise or was their interest genuine? We will never know, but it’s unlikely any genuine desire to bring the Argentine winger back to Spain will ever be revived.
PSG have haunted Barca at every corner of this transfer window and rumours of their intervention with Seri caused this deal to collapse just as everything appeared to be signed off.
Barca had agreed €40m but PSG reportedly then made a higher bid of €50m which caused Nice to raise their valuation and scare the Catalans off.
Soler claiming on Saturday, in relation to Seri and Inigo Martinez (more on him in a minute) that: “Yes we did show interest in Inigo Martinez and Seri but in the end we thought it’d be best to not sign them”.
Seri, understandably, was livid, having prepared for the move for weeks. Nice have been left with a disgruntled player, caught in the middle of a power play between two of the world’s richest clubs.
Why and how Barca never signed the Spain international centre-back is somewhat of a mystery. Talks were held with Real Sociedad in July, the €32m release clause was more than affordable and the 26-year-old was keen to make the switch and yet just as it appeared it would be signed off, Barca backed out.
As Soler said, the interest was there but “in the end” spending that sort of fee was not seen as wise.
Admittedly, this was before the Neymar windfall but beyond the ageing Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano – who could be a huge benefit for the team if he moved into midfield – and Samul Umtiti, central defence could do with some degree of strengthening.
Maybe, Barca will learn the error of their ways and return in January, or maybe this was another fad for a board running out of ideas.
Barca tried to unsettle Verratti to the extent he had to issue a personal apology to PSG following comments from his agent Donato Di Campli, fuelled by knowledge of interest from Catalonia.
Indeed, it caused such a furore Di Campli lost his client with Verratti shacking up with Mino Raiola.
How much that affects his long-term prospects in Paris, given his new representative’s previous form, remains to be seen but the whole drama angered PSG to such a degree, Barca may never be able to sign the Italian (and, if you want to delve into the realms of conspiracy, even enhanced their desire to sign Neymar).
PSG coach Unai Emery claimed Barca’s interest was never concrete, something refuted by sporting director, Robert Fernandez. Either way, what once looked an inevitability, with Verratti the sort of Xavi/Iniesta-type hybrid midfielder who could glide into Barca’s system, for is now a distant reality.
Crystal Palace have agreed a deal with Liverpool for defender Mamadou Sakho with the Frenchman undergoing a medical, according to the Liverpool Echo.
Sakho will sign a five-year deal and he will become the club’s highest earner.
The 27-year-old was a successful loan signing last season and after weeks of negotiating with the Reds have agreed a fee thought to be £26million.
West Brom joined the chase to sign Sakho this morning with Jonny Evans thought to be on his way.
But their attempts to hijack Palace’s deal look to have failed with a permanent move to south London close to completion.
Monaco are at the centre of a sensational transfer tornado. The Ligue 1 champions have agreed to a fee of £92million with Arsenal for Thomas Lemar but that deal is being held up as they look to secure Angel Di Maria as part of a transfer which will see Kylian Mbappe move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Indeed, Mbappe’s switch from Monaco to PSG has been delayed as the Parisians attempt to figure out how they can sign the forward and remain within Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations, according to respected French daily L’Equipe.
The 18-year-old has apparently passed a medical and was set to join the club on loan with an automatic €180million purchase option activated next summer.
Trying to established if Lemar turned Arsenal down. Other complicating factors – Di Maria/Mbappe – but all irrelevant if Lemar reluctant
— James Ducker (@TelegraphDucker) August 31, 2017
By delaying the purchase for a year, PSG will remain within the FFP limits with the fee not taking into account this season given they are already stretching their buying potential after the €222million acquisition of Neymar from Barcelona earlier this summer.
The French Football Federation are yet to sanction the initial loan move and the hold up has had a knock-on effect with Arsenal now refusing to sell Alexis Sanchez to Manchester City with the club now establishing they don’t have enough time to sign Lemar because of the Mbappe issue.
The Telegraph are reporting, that PSG would be willing to sell Germany international Julian Draxler to the Gunners but according to the British outlet, the 23-year-old is against a move away from Paris having only signed from Wolfsburg in January.