Enough of the speculation, it’s decision time in Barcelona.
Joan Laporta and company have made it clear what they hope to achieve this summer, but whether their plan is the right one is up for debate.
As is always the case in the transfer market, you can’t execute everything on day one. Dominoes will fall, but whether Barcelona pushes or reacts to them is the strategic question.
But before evaluating the potential moves, we should consider the short and long-term goals the club has in mind.
It’s clear that Joan Laporta believes there won’t be a future if the club can’t compete for trophies now. That’s why he’s selling 10% of the TV rights, with more to follow and possibly BLM on top of that.
The alternative way of thinking is to tighten your fiscal belt, take the pain in the short term without mortgaging your future, and resist the temptation of being the big spender that steals the headlines.
One principle the club is determined to hold the line on is around player salaries, and you can’t blame them.
Giving huge long-term contracts is problematic beyond the debt it creates. It takes away the ability to be financially agile if things don’t work out. There can be no buyer’s remorse. You are stuck with what you pay for, because no other club will take on a losing stock at a high price.
Ousmane Dembele gets most of the attention, but there’s a reason why the sacred cows haven’t been brought up in transfer gossip for years. No buyers have been interested in their services, even after reducing and deferring their salaries.
But Laporta has shown a willingness to pay hefty transfer fees. Ferran Torres was exhibit number one.
And what’s the strategy going forward? “Invest” 200 million euros this summer.
Allow Bayern Munich to run up the price on Robert Lewandowski, instead of patiently, and responsibly, waiting a year to get him for free.
Get into a bidding war with Chelsea over Raphinha? Even if the Brazilian is willing to play for a modest salary, how much is Barcelona saving with this option rather than negotiating with Dembele? If your stance around the Frenchman is firm, then maybe move on to address other needs on the field, and see if a cheaper option emerges on the wing.
And what about the midfield? Franck Kessie is a good value signing. Losing Frenkie de Jong is more about getting the salary off the books rather than the transfer fee. But please stay away from Bernardo Silva, and from doing business with Pep Guardiola in general. Fool me once, but don’t be fooled again by overpaying for Manchester City players.
So this is the main Laporta strategy as it exists at the moment. Get rid of Frenkie and Dembele, and sign expensive replacements. But above all else, pray that Lewandowski has a monster goal scoring season that alone could make the difference in helping the team compete for trophies.
In the background, we hear about new defenders. I wish this noise was louder. For all the debate surrounding the attacking players, the decision makers need to feel pressure on greatly improving the defensive line.
Barcelona can get away with tinkering with the attack, but mostly leaving it alone. The same cannot be said for the defensive line. New high-quality full-backs and center-backs are essential. That’s where the focus should be if the priorities were clear. Instead, we are distracted by the shiny objects up front.
In the end, these are hard decisions. We just watched Real Madrid win La Liga and the Champions League. That’s painful, and culers don’t want to suffer it again this season.
But what’s the right course of action going forward that will set the club up for sustained success sooner rather than later?
Is a more patient and methodical approach the way to go? One that prioritizes fiscal health above winning trophies right away?
Or should Barcelona dominate the market as buyers as they usually do, and hope it’s enough to overcome their rivals?
I’m just happy I’m not the one making these choices.
But this is the job Joan Laporta signed up for.
Which way will he go?