The transfer window closed quietly for FC Barcelona, with attempted deals not able to be completed.
BARCELONA, Spain (6 October 2020) — The only big story out of the most recent transfer window was of course news concerning Lionel Messi’s thwarted attempt to force his way out of Barcelona to join Manchester City. It dominated the storylines of any media person who covers the Blaugrana. Did Leo exercise his right to leave in a timely manner or didn’t he? That will always be the question. It was a story that could have just as well been a football-based telenovela. This calendar year has been like no other and topping it off with a deal that didn’t happen seems to fit right into the script.
Ronald Koeman took over as manager on August 19, and, during the transfer window, the organisation only made one new signing: the €21 million arrival of young US international Sergino Dest from Ajax, a deal that Barcelona was able to complete by virtue of having received €30 million from Wolverhampton Wonderers for their previous right-back Nelson Semedo. Trincao, Pedri, and Pjanic were all signed before Koeman’s arrival.
“The financial situation of the club is very, very, very difficult,” Koeman has admitted bluntly. The Dutchman was hoping to get much-needed cover at centre-back and another centre-forward before the window shut on Monday night. According to The Athletic, Barcelona enquired with Norwich City about a loan deal for right-back Max Aarons.
Again, the blame goes directly to club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stated publicly that his desire to part company with many of their ageing players and those who were bad for team chemistry. Sevilla Football Club and Inter Milan got Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal on cut-price deals, followd by Luis Suarez’s exit to Atletico Madrid.
“Bartomeu is a great president and a great person,” said Atlético president Enrique Cerezo after that deal was done, though it seemed he did not intend to be taken literally. One should be recalled Atlético accused Barcelona of secretly agreeing with Antoine Griezmann in advance of his transfer being accepted.
Thus, with five weeks played in La Liga this season, Ronald Koeman was further weakened. Midfielder Rafinha Alcantara has joined French champions Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer. The Rafinha deal will include €3 million in performance-related variables while the Blaugrana will also hold a 35 percent clause if the player is sold from the Parisians in future years, however Barcelona did not receive an upfront transfer fee. Rafinha, 27, had been on a season long loan deal at Celta from the Camp Nou – where he made 90 first-team appearances.
The club also got rid of another promising young star. Centre-back Jean-Clair Todibo joined Portuguese giants Sport Lisboa e Benfica on a two-season loan deal with an option to buy at the last minute. According to reports, Benfica paid €2 upfront, and the option to purchase is placed at €20 million. Barcelona had signed him from Toulouse after he had played only 10 games as a professional, but the Frenchman was never given a chance to develop before being loaned to Schalke 04 (Gelsenkirchen) of the Bundesliga.
Koeman has a squad of 24 players, among them players whom he told directly that he was not counting on them, case in point Riqui Puig, Martin Braithwaite and Junior Firpo, all of whom will have a difficult time of getting minutes. Carles Aléña is back after his loan to Real Betis ended, but is also likely not to see much playing time.
A separate case is that of Samuel Umtiti, who has preferred to continue devaluing himself on the Barcelona bench and in the stands rather than trying to find consistency at another club.
Matheus Fernandes is another player who doesn’t fit into Koeman’s plans. Signed by Barcelona in January 2020 for €7 million plus €3 more in variables, the former Palmeiras midfielder was compared to Sergio Busquets, with great placement, ball delivery and excellent ability to get upfield, although his experience on loan to Real Valladolid was less than impressive. Fernandes only featured in three games (two as a starter) and is a long way from meeting Barça’s expectations. The Brazilian returned to the Camp Nou for preseason training on August 11 but was not officially presented as a Barcelona player at the start of this season, a sure sign that the club wants to move him along.
Koeman was undoubtedly confident that that Memphis Depay from Olympique Lyonnais and Eric García from Manchester City would arrive on deadline day. However, those hopes were dashed by the failure to move Ousmane Dembélé. Without the fee from that transaction, Barça did not have the finances to continue to pursue either Depay or Garcia.
Barcelona wanted to loan Dembélé, and offered him a one-year extension of his contract. Barcelona would thus be able to have 365 more days to take advantage of a transfer next summer, when the transfer market is likely to be a bit stronger.
Dembélé was on Manchester United’s short list until the last minute. Throughout the day, the Red Devils tried to sign him without luck. The answer from Dembélé was always the same: “no”. Dembélé would have contemplated the option of leaving if it was a transfer but not a loan. United, however, were only interested in a loan. The deal would have been very similar to that of Coutinho’s loan to Bayern Munich, whereby the Bavarian side paid €8.5 million for him, and also paid his wages. By all accounts, Manchester United were interested in that type of transaction.
The Frenchman is now criticised for staying when just three months ago he was one of the most expensive signings in history. He is under contract with Barcelona and has a right to want to succeed at the Camp Nou. In addition to improving, he will also need to win the confidence of Koeman.
LA LIGA SANTANDER TABLE:
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