Brazil legend Rivaldo claimed that the presence of Lionel Messi in a team makes it harder for other players to reach their potential.
The former Barcelona man made the comment in regard to the departure of countryman Philippe Coutinho to Bayern Munich after a woeful stint in Spain.
Rivaldo believes Messi likes to take up responsibility and credit and this prevented Coutinho from asserting himself.
“I always believed that Philippe Coutinho had the ability to succeed at Barcelona, but things were taking too much time and both parties agreed on a transfer to Bayern Munich,” he told Betfair.
“I’m a little disappointed about his failure in gaining a regular place in the first team, but perhaps he was no longer confident about it and unhappy, so he opted for a move to another big club trying to finally recover his best football from his time at Liverpool.
“It’s never easy to find your space in a team where Lionel Messi constantly takes all the credit and responsibility. There are few players in the world capable of reaching such a situation and imposing themselves, and maybe Coutinho didn’t have enough patience to find his spot in the team.
“The Argentinian star is the team leader and will keep playing at his best level for about three or four more years, so it is difficult to see other players shining at their best at Barcelona.”
The Ernesto Valverde era at Barcelona has experienced consistent highs and certainly gut-wrenching lows too. The Catalans eased to two La Liga titles with the other 19 teams standing helplessly by. However, two humiliating Champions League exits at the hands of Roma and Liverpool have eclipsed the consistency shown by the Catalan team.
Before the ongoing transfer window, Barcelona spent over €500 million in just two summers under Valverde. A club with such financial backing and big names in the squad is expected to win at least one Champions League title, let alone avoid elimination after securing a three-goal advantage in a knockout stage, as they did in the semi-final against Liverpool last season.
Which signings did not make any impact and what were the reasons? Which signings made an effective start and what went right? We take a look.
Philippe Coutinho – €145m
Barcelona’s record signing was sent on loan to Bayern Munich after a forgettable stint at his dream club in which he scored just 13 goals and contributed seven assists. A hat-trick in a losing cause against Levante and a fantastic goal against Manchester United in the Champions League were the only two prominent moments of his Barcelona career so far.
The Brazilian’s deterioration can be attributed to lack of confidence and the incompetence of the manager who could not get the best out of the player.
Coutinho played out of his natural position and failed to adapt to his new role on the left wing.
Transfer Rating: 3/10
Ousmane Dembele – €125m
Once tipped to pick up the mantle from Neymar as ‘Barcelona’s next big thing’, Ousmane Dembele now spends as many days on the hospital wing as he does the flanks of the Camp Nou.
It would be harsh to classify this signing as a total flop as the Frenchman has come clutch in crunch moments in La Liga, and is still young. But he displayed his flair in bands rather than a spectrum, indicating that he needs to work harder and show consistency.
The 21-year-old is criticised for throwing away possession frequently and failing to produce an end-product after a sequence of flashy runs.
Dembele has been very unlucky with injuries which have inhibited his growth at the club. This has been a major contributor to his inclusion in this list.
Transfer rating: 5/10
Arthur – €31m
It’s been just over a year since Arthur joined Barcelona from Gremio but just like nine months ago, very few would believe that the Brazilian was not an academy product.
The 23-year-old fit like a glove at his new club from day one. His press-resistance and eye for a pass have invited comparisons to Barcelona legend Xavi.
Arthur’s passing range is encouraging, and he brings structure to the midfield. All these traits are favoured in a Barcelona midfielder and the Brazilian is hence tipped to sustain his impressive growth at the club.
He has his flaws too – he is not the best at winning aerial duels and gets bullied off the ball at times. But the signs are encouraging and as things stand, Arthur is Barcelona’s best buy in the Valverde era.
Transfer rating – 8/10
Clement Lenglet – €35.9m
In a world where central defenders are costing clubs in excess of €70m, Clement Lenglet has proved to be an absolute bargain.
The former Sevilla man filled in for an injured Samuel Umtiti so impressively that the Frenchman’s absence was hardly felt. That this is being said about a World Cup winner and Barcelona’s best defender in the last two seasons says a lot about what Lenglet has brought to the Blaugrana.
The 24-year-old is a good passer of the ball and makes up for a lack of pace with astute positioning. Like Arthur, Lenglet too has gelled into the squad seamlessly.
The centre-back does not possess any notable weakness but he could look at an overall improvement to push Umtiti further away from the starting line-up.
Transfer rating – 8/10
UNNECESSARY BUY TURNED FLOP
Malcom – €41m
Barcelona roped in Malcom under suspicious circumstances after a stunning season at Bordeaux. The Brazilian was never linked to the Catalan side and would have joined Roma but the Spanish giants swooped in.
A talented player in his own right, the 22-year-old was just not cut out for Barcelona’s style of play. Malcom is great with the ball at his feet but not the best at linking up with players in tight spaces.
The winger took a gamble on his career by choosing Spain over Italy and it did not work out. He displayed flashes of brilliance but did not earn enough minutes under Valverde.
In the grand scheme of things, it appears that the Spanish giants did not need the player and stole him from Roma out of spite after being humiliated in the Champions League. This failed transfer is on the club, given they used the player – now at Zenit St Petersburg – like a pawn.
Transfer rating – 4/10
SURPRISE BUY TURNED HIT
Arturo Vidal – €18m
Arturo Vidal’s CV includes impressive stints at top European clubs like Juventus and Bayern Munich. That the Chilean has won every league title since the 2011/12 season vouches for the quality he possesses. But a move to Barca when there were already too many options came as a surprise, given his skill-set did not exactly fit with the Spanish style of play.
One season into the midfielder’s Barcelona career, however, and he has provided them with exactly what they lacked in midfield – the muscle that protects the prettier players when protecting a slender lead. Vidal never shies away from tackles or hard work and this fighting spirit has reduced the burden on the likes of Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets in crucial moments.
However, the technical aspects of his game should not be ignored either. The Chilean is great at distributing the ball, switching flanks and moving forward occasionally.
Most importantly, Vidal is yet to display a bad performance in a Barcelona shirt.
Transfer rating – 7/10
Figures from transfermarkt
The Argentina playmaker has been out since August 5 and missed his side’s 1-0 opening weekend defeat at Athletic Bilbao.
But Messi joined his team-mates in full training on Wednesday ahead of the home clash with Betis.
“It’s the news we’ve all been waiting for and it finally happened on Wednesday as Leo Messi was back training with his team-mates at the Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper,” read a statement on Barcelona’s website.
“It was the first time he has been able to do that since picking up a right leg injury last August 5. He was the star attraction on pitch 2 at the training facility, where the first team was also joined by Inaki Pena, Chumi, Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz of Barca B as well as teenage sensation Ansu Fati from the U19 team.
“The team will be taking a rest on Thursday and will be back at it on Friday morning, with one further workout on Saturday before they take on Real Betis in the first Liga game of the season at Camp Nou on Sunday.”