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Sunk cost fallacy and Ousmane Dembélé

Sometimes, it’s best to cut your losses

AC Milan v FC Barcelona - Preseason Friendly Photo by Marco Steinbrenner/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

Undoubtedly, the signing of Ousmane Dembélé will go down as a failure. The French winger did help the team and did play his part in winning some trophies. But given the huge outlay to sign him - €105 million plus a reported €40 million in add-ons - much more was expected.

It’s a big indictment of FC Barcelona’s failed transfer policy over the last decade that he’s arguably not even the worst signing of them all. That might just be Philippe Coutinho.

Selling him to Paris Saint-Germain for a reported fee of €50 million, of which only 27 goes to Barcelona directly (the rest going to the player and his agent), confirms a sad ending to the saga.

On the other hand, there’s reason to believe that, despite it all, Joan Laporta has done the best he could with a bad hand.

There’s something called the sunk cost fallacy, which is best summed up as “throwing good money after bad” or being unable to cut one’s losses. Time and again, people keep investing in a bad situation that they already sunk resources into, hoping to eventually turn it around, rather than simply giving up and accepting the loss.

The gigantic investment in Dembélé was a catastrophic decision. However, that was in the past. All that could be handled by Laporta once he took over was what to do next.

Dembélé’s contract actually expired, and PSG could have gotten him for free last year. But he ended up going back to Barcelona. Some reported that it was for a lowered salary, but it’s said he may have actually made slightly more than before.

Whatever the case, Barcelona probably didn’t have much choice but to agree to the conditions, which allowed Dembélé to leave easily, and for a big payday.

The Catalans were able to use him in the league winning campaign of the past season and now are at least able to get some money out of selling him, rather than losing him for free.

To continue to invest in him more than they did would have been a mistake. Instead, the Laporta board made the best out of a bad situation.

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