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Antoine Griezmann sale proves Barcelona are still in rebuilding mode

The Catalans are looking to lower costs, develop prospects, and reassess next year

FC Barcelona v Getafe CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Pedro Salado/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

FC Barcelona have sold both of their top earners and most famous players in the same transfer window. Antoine Griezmann rarely played like the all-star player he was for Atlético Madrid or the French national team at the Camp Nou, but it’s still somewhat shocking to see him exit shortly after Lionel Messi left.

It seems to be an acknowledgement that they truly can’t compete for the league title. They’ve just reinforced last season’s champions, at a cut-rate price and with no player going the other way.

The point of the sale was to get his big wages off the books, get some money coming in, and that’s it. It was not about making a play for a trophy this season. Of course, Barcelona could still win titles this season. Much stranger things have happened. There are good players here and a team that will try their best to fight for everything. But from a strategic planning perspective, it’s hard to shake the feeling that they’re writing off this year.

Joan Laporta is taking a risk hoping that fans are patient as he attempts to right the wrongs of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s reign as club president.

One more year could help normalize revenues to pre-COVID levels, or at least closer to those levels than they were this year. One more year could allow Ronald Koeman to either prove himself as the coach for next season, or rule himself out and wind his contract down. It’s one more year to develop talents, to test whether Ansu Fati can recover the quality he showed before his injury, and to see if there are possible exits for the likes of Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho,

There are rumors in the Catalan press that this is all part of Laporta’s master plan to try to get Erling Braut Haaland. The Norwegian is Laporta’s favorite target in the transfer market, but so far, the team does not have the financial muscle to pry him from Borussia Dortmund.

Whether Barcelona can convince Haaland - who will essentially have his choice of teams next season - to join this version of Barcelona in the first place remains a big question.

Last season was a transition season, and it’s looking very likely that this one will be as well. The question is whether the club’s leadership can handle it well enough to revive Barcelona. Some rebuilds work - Laporta himself did it in the past. Others don’t. We will see whether Laporta can do it again.