When Philipe Coutinho signed for an initial €120 million last Saturday, many questions arose. Where will he play in the team? Is he the new Iniesta? Is he worth the money? All valid questions but one that has received less attention is just where does this leave Antoine Griezmann?
The Frenchman was strongly linked with Barça in December and there were reports that the Catalan club were preparing to pay the €100 million release in his Atlético Madrid contract. The decision then seemed logical. At €100 million, Griezmann is relatively cheap in a post-Neymar market and the player was keen to join.
Now, the decision is less clear. For a start, the finances are puzzling. Despite an estimated £893.25 million market value, Barcelona are not an endless pit of money. They recored a net profit of €18 million but the club’s debt still sits at €247 million.
The Neymar fee of €222 million was a huge source of income but Barça have already surpassed that figure with the summer signing of Ousmane Dembélé (an initial €105 million) and now Coutinho. The expected arrival of Yerry Mina for a reported €15 million is nearing official announcement leaving Barcelona with a wealth of money going out and not a large sum coming in.
The club did agree a new €55 million per year sponsorship with Rakuten in the summer to boost finances but lost a significant amount of income after discussions with Qatar Airways broke down.
All of this means that Barcelona currently sit at €313 million spent in transfers this season and €226 million received. There is also the factor of wages to be considered. Ten players in the squad earn over £100,000 per week with Lionel Messi earning £500,000. Coutinho is incorporated in that list with a weekly wage of £240,000.
Still though, the flirtation with Griezmann continues. As of Tuesday, Spanish TV’s El Larguero reported Barça’s interest has survived the Coutinho signing but another €100 million hit on Barça’s pursestrings as well as Griezmann’s no doubt high salary demands pushes Barça further into the red.
For this transfer to make any sense, Barcelona will need a clear out but they do not have an abundance of sellable assets. Rafinha, Gerard Deulofeu and Andre Gomes are all reportedly nearing the exit door but none of them would warrant a sizeable fee and it is possible the sale of all three combined would not match Griezmann’s fee. While Arda Turan has dug in his heels and remains intent on seeing out his expensive contract despite Barcelona’s public discarding of him.
If we switch matters to on the field, more problems arise. Just where would Griezmann play? If you’re signing an €100 million player, you would expect him to be a starter but how do you fit Griezmann, Luis Suárez, Messi, Coutinho and Dembélé on the same field without being extremely top heavy? A 4-3-3 seems the most logical choice but it creates more problems than it solves.
This would also push Griezmann away from his best position. At Real Sociedad, Griezmann was an exciting winger but Diego Simeone’s movement of him into the second striker position has seen him become one of the world’s best. The reality is Griezmann’s favourite position to operate in is the same as Messi’s. You could drop Suárez and play Messi in the false nine position as he did under Pep Guardiola but then you are decreasing the influence of Messi. Alternatively play Griezmann as the nine but he has shown he struggles in this role and can become isolated if marked well.
This also leaves the central midfield horrendously exposed. Coutinho is not known for his defensive work and it would likely fall to Ivan Rakitić. Perhaps a double pivot of Rakitić and Sergio Busquets could work but again, you limit the effectiveness of one of your best players in Busquets.
These are all questions that Ernesto Valverde would need to answer should Griezmann drive and while he would be another star player to add to the squad and the revenue gained from that is an attractive proposition but in the current climate it does not make financial nor tactical sense to bring him to the Camp Nou.