Barcelona spent more than 400 million euro trying to replace Neymar, and yet the starting lineup had only Luis Suárez and Lionel Messi as Barcelona drew 2-2 a critical match against Atlético Madrid, playing with no other forward alongside. It’s as if Neymar left, and no one took his place.
Antoine Griezmann, bought for €120 million, was on the bench until injury time. Martin Braithwaite, bought for the relatively paltry sum of €18 million, was an unused sub. Ousmane Dembélé (€105 million, plus bonuses) is still out injured, which has become the norm for him. Philippe Coutinho. who cost up to €160 million, is out on loan with Barcelona desperate to sell him. Malcom was bought for 40 million, and was sold quickly after. There was also, on top of it all, a carousel of forwards brought in to be the backup to the Uruguayan, such as Munir and Kevin-Prince Boateng, and the failure of Gerard Deulofeu to establish himself as an option in the immediate wake of Neymar’s departure.
We could talk about many other bad transfers (and a few good ones), but the forward recruitment is pretty stark.
Griezmann seems to have no natural place in the XI, which already happened with Coutinho. Coutinho’s transfer is so bewilderingly bad it may come to be known as perhaps, the worst ever, in that it funded Liverpool’s title glories and sapped Barcelona.
The technical staff was given, essentially, a blank check to find a replacement for Andrés Iniesta. They could pick, basically, anyone in the world, and they were told to spare no expense. Their decision was to buy the Brazilian. They broke the transfer record in the middle of the season for a player who couldn’t even register for the UEFA Champions League until the next term. Pretty soon, he was playing not as a midfielder, but as a left-winger. And shortly after that, he was loaned out for disappointing performances. Now, Barcelona are desperate to sell him at a fee that will at least recoup some of his value. It’s sad.
Dembélé represents a “what if,” as his development has been rocked by constant injuries. Still, paying a record fee for a young talent rather than a proven product was not just risky, but somewhat irresponsible.
Griezmann is an established talent, the best player in a FIFA World Cup winning team, and legitimately one of the best players in the world. But he isn’t a winger, nor a striker. Neither Ernesto Valverde nor Quique Setién knows what to do with him, really.
The French star has not covered himself in glory with his recent performances, and to an extent one may wonder why he chose to join a team where it was unclear where he’d play. But the coaches have not found a way to use him well, and the front office also needs to be asked why they wanted him so badly to begin with. Was it because he fit in well, or because he was marketable?