WIth the summer transfer window set to slam shut on Monday at midnight it is time to review Barca's summer dealings.
After Barcelona was beaten 7-0 over two legs by Bayern Munich in the Champion's League, Sandro Rosell said an interview and said "we will make four or five signings. We must shake up the squad. We will bring in players from the Barca B. There are certain positions that need to be strengthened".
Many took this as a sign that Barca would try to evolve the squad and add some new faces to help strengthen the squad. Center Back was the position on most people's minds along with Neymar being brought in the add more to the attack. There was rumors of multiple defensive replacements being brought in with the possibility of Marc Bartra being loaned out to gain experience. Midfield was also mentioned as an area that could use a new face.
Alas, Sandro Rosell deceived us all as he held to his word of "4 or 5 signings" but never mentioned that four of those players would be signed to the Barca B team. Adrian Ortola, Dani Nieto, Edu Bedia, and Dennis Suarez were all signed to the B team while only Neymar was bought for the first team.
In total, Barca spent 71.5 million euro's on players this summer: Neymar at 57 million, Dennis Suarez at 1.5 million and Bojan Krkic at 13 million (all other B team signings were free transfers). Bojan was subsequently loaned out to Ajax for the season. Barca also lost David Villa to Atleti, Andreu Fontas to Celta de Vigo, Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich, Marc Muniesa to Stoke City, and Eric Abidal to Monaco.
This was not the summer of evolution that most were hoping for. Where was the CB signing to help close what was a swiss cheese defense last season? Where were the new faces who were supposed to bring about an evolution for Barca to help bring them back to the top of Europe?
The Center Back situation in particular is strange. The single minded pursuit of a player who was never going to be sold by his club was strange. The decision to only truly look at 3 possible replacements is also strange. Maybe Barca did look at others such as Marquinhos, Mats Hummels, Toby Alderwiereld, Mamadou Sakho, and Inigo Martinez and decided that they didn't fit Barca or where too expensive. Maybe Barca even made quiet inquires about these players. But the fact remains that Barca have failed to fill the biggest hole in the lineup and have left the club short handed at the position.
Questions must be asked about the other dealings that the Barca management made this summer. First and foremost, allowing Thiago Alcantara to leave was a huge mistake and one that, in my opinion, Barca will come to regret in the future. Yes Barca were able to promote from within the "fill the gap" but there is a reason that Thiago was playing ahead of Jonathan Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto. Enough has already been said about this situation so I will leave it at that.
As for David Villa, Barca did a nice thing by sending the player to the team he wanted to join, but when that team is a direct rival you really have to rethink that strategy. I would much rather see David Villa plying his trade in the EPL where he would not be a factor to Barca (seeing as how he already scored one against us, whats to say he won't hurt us more). There have been rumors that the reason that the fee for Villa was so low is because Barca now have first option on Oliver Torres. If this turns out to be true then it could end up being a great deal, but if it isn't true then this was simply poor judgement by the Barca Management.
The treatment of Eric Abidal is also a sour spot on the Barca management. The way the fans and players have reacted to him leaving is telling enough (Dani Alves going as far as wearing Abidal's old number in tribute to the player). Even if the goal was to sign a new CB, what is the harm in re-signing Abidal? He already knows the system and fits very well in it, either at LB or CB. He is a fan favorite and leader in the locker room and he absolutely loves Barca. I have no doubt that he would have taken a pay cut to stay with Barca, even if it meant not playing as much as he was accustomed to before his unfortunate illness. And as a player that most think will one day be a coach, who better to help mentor the younger players like Martin Montoya and Marc Bartra? With the current situation of having only 3 true CB's on the squad, allowing Abidal to leave looks even more to be a stupid decision. WIth Puyol struggling with fitness and injuries, having an extra, veteran player to be able to fill in would be a great thing for Barca.
Not only losing Abidal was bad, but the way the situation was handled was poor as well. Sandro Rosell and his board waited until the very end to tell Abidal what was happening, this is the same thing that happened with Marc Muneisa who even publicly said that he had no idea what was happening and had no contact with the club. And with the recent comments made by Kiko Femenia (which may just be those of a bitter player who couldn't cut it, who knows), it seems that the Barca management is really handling player contracts poorly. As a club that touts being "mes que un club" (more than a club), these situations are really questioning that motto. Every player should be treated with respect and always kept informed on their own situation. One would hope that players who leave Barca to say that the club always treated them fairly and as an individual, that is was never treated as business decisions even if that's what it really was in the end. That players would leave saying only good things about the club, that is what "mes que un club" should truly mean. That Barca treat all situations better than any other club would because they are just clubs and we are more than that, we are closer to family.
In fairness to Rosell, the signings that have been made have been good signings and the other players that were pursued but ultimately not signed were top quality. Dennis Suarez looks to be the real deal and could become a huge asset to Barca in the future as could the other B team signings. Neymar has had a great attitude from day one and, given the time and opportunity, will gel well with the squad and, hopefully, become a success. And, obviously, I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes at the club and perhaps am in no place to question the way in which Barca does their business.
While the signing of Neymar will, hopefully, turn out to be a bargain, the other dealings that Barca have done this summer have been, in a word, poor. Is this squad really any better than the team that was embarrassed by Bayern in the UCL and by Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey? I don't think so. Sure, Neymar is an improvement over Villa if he manages to gel with the squad quickly but if he doesn't there could once again be a Messi dependance for goals. Is Sergi Roberto an improvement over Thiago Alcantara? No and neither is Jonathan Dos Santos. Is signing no one an improvement over Eric Abidal? Of course not.
Maybe a renewed sense of purpose and energy along with new tactics (or a return to old tactics) and a new coach is enough to push Barca over the top. I am not so sure and would have liked to have seen some more new faces brought into the club, or at the very least, seen less of the old faces leave.
But hopefully I am proved wrong