Poor management and reckless recruitment responsible for Barcelona's failure in Europe

Sooraj Kamath - Writer 18:05 05/09/2019
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Ernesto Valverde

It was a busy transfer window like most for Barcelona as they went big to assemble a squad that can win the Champions League again. The Spanish giants spent €255 million and made €156m through player sales ahead of the 2019/20 season.

Despite the arrival of world-class players such as Frenkie de Jong and Antoine Griezmann, the squad does not strike you as a Champions League favourite. In fact, the Catalans spent big in each of the seasons following their last European triumph in the 2014/15 season. But they reached the semi-final just once in four years. They discarded most of the players bought during this term for various reasons, usually at a financial loss.

Of the 23 signings they made prior to the recently concluded window, only seven are still at the club. They spent over €675m on new signings in this period and only players bought for a combined total of €246m are still at Barcelona.

Samuel Umtiti (€25m), Nelson Semedo (€35.7m), Ousmane Dembele (€125m), Arturo Vidal (€18m), Arthur (€31m), Jean-Clair Todibo (€1m) and Clément Lenglet (€35.9m) are the only players who made the Barcelona squad this season.

Among these players, only Lenglet can claim to being an undisputed starter, with Arthur and Dembele closed to being included in that bracket.

Seven players who started the Champions League final four years ago are still starters at Barcelona. This can lead to three explanations for the club’s repeated disappointment in Europe.

The first and rather unlikely theory is that Barcelona’s recruiting was so good before their decline that the treble-winning players are still in excellent touch. That Luis Suarez has been awful in Europe in the last two seasons, Ivan Rakitic and Sergio Busquets have exhibited signs of decline in the same period and Jordi Alba has been unreliable in big games completely refutes this.

Another possibility is that the Spanish giants have been poor with their recruitment and splashed their budget around carelessly. Malcom, Paco Alcacer, Yerry Mina, Lucas Digne, Gerard Deulofeu, Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan are examples. Most of these players would be good signings for any other club but are just not cut out for Barcelona.

The Blaugrana also roped in players such as Jeison Murillo and Kevin-Prince Boateng on loan last season, only to present them with a fat pay cheque for negligible involvement on the pitch.

The final explanation combines the inability of the player to make the most out of his opportunities and that of the manager to bring the best out of him. Denis Suarez, Andre Gomes and Philippe Coutinho are three players who – given their skill set – should have shone for a team like Barcelona. But Ernesto Valverde could not get the best out of them.

Whether it was fielding them in an unfamiliar position or providing limited playing time, the coach deserves a huge chunk of the blame for the failed transfers.

In conclusion, Barcelona have either not been able to sign players who can compete with the old horses in the squad and knock them off the pecking order or have had their manager stunt the growth of potential world-beaters.

Either way, they are still stuck with the same core of players who have normalised mediocrity in Europe. They don’t need more signings, but a manager bold enough to bench out-of-form senior players and provide more opportunities to the young signings and academy products.

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