Grading the Blaugrana’s Summer Business

    Miralem Pjanic joined Barcelona from Juventus this summer | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    Y’know when you walk past a football ground and the club’s hierarchy are stood by the entrance holding some sort of weird boot sale in an attempt to give away some of the most high-profile names in world football?

    Nah, neither do we, but that’s essentially what went on at Camp Nou this summer.

    In a world where the coronavirus threatens to take the annual Christmas pantomime away from us, Barcelona have done their best to ensure we wouldn’t miss out and hosted one of their own.

    The club have gone into utter meltdown this summer, essentially playing the role of an incompetent Football Manager addict and deciding they were bored of not winning anymore so just starting again – except they had to get rid of roughly a billion pounds worth of wages before they could do so.

    It’s certainly been an interesting few months for followers of the Catalan giants, so here’s 90min’s review of the club’s summer transfer window, with each deal given a final grade before we assess their business overall.

    Miralem Pjanic
    Pjanic’s arrival saw Arthur Melo depart | Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

    Signed From: Juventus (£54m)

    Grade: E

    On the face of it, the signing of Miralem Pjanic isn’t a particularly bad one. However, he’s not the type of midfielder Barcelona need right now, and when you consider they’ve spent the summer trying to move on high earners so they can generate cash, the signing of a 30-year-old who doesn’t massively improve the squad is bewildering at best.

    However, the real kicker is the player they lost in the process of the deal. Although Barça bought Pjanic, the move was only made possible by the agreement that the club would sell the gifted Arthur Melo to Juventus – a brilliant player who’s six years Pjanic’s junior.

    The reason? The sign/swap deal meant that Barça could put €60m on the books, technically, and kick the problem down the road for another season. Yay?

    Signed From: Ajax (£18.9m)

    Grade: B

    That’s a bit more like it.

    Dest was wanted by a whole host of European football’s behemoths this summer and Ronald Koeman will be delighted to have got his man.

    Despite having played just one season of top flight football, Dest shows bags of potential, he fits the Barça style perfectly and at just 19 he’s got plenty of time to develop and improve.

    The USA international has already made his debut for the Blaugrana and in just a few years time he could prove to be an unusually shrewd piece of business by the club.

    An agreement for the highly rated Trincão was reached earlier this year | Soccrates Images/Getty Images

    Signed From: Braga (£27.9m)

    Grade: B+

    In a summer where the Camp Nou departure lounge was packed to the rafters, arrivals were few and far between – though there were some quality additions nonetheless.

    Francisco Trincão’s signing from Braga was announced in January, though the deal didn’t become effective until July.

    The tricky forward has of course already been dubbed ‘the new Cristiano Ronaldo’ (though that’s customary for any Portuguese footballer under the age of 25 who can do three kick-ups), however, his dribbling ability and creative flair can’t be denied.

    The 20-year-old was hardly a bargain at just short of £28m, but similar to Dest, he could prove to be a great signing for the club in years to come.

    Signed From: Palmeiras (£5.8m + £2.5m add-ons)

    Grade: D

    Matheus Fernandes is already rumoured to have been deemed surplus to requirements by Koeman despite only officially being announced as a Barcelona player in July.

    The Brazilian played just 166 minutes of football during a six-month loan spell with Real Valladolid earlier this year, and since arriving at Camp Nou injuries have condemned him to the sidelines with him yet to make his Barcelona debut.

    A deal already looking set for failure.

    Pedri signed a two-year deal with the Catalan giants | David Ramos/Getty Images

    Signed From: Las Palmas (£4.5m)

    Grade: A-

    A brilliant addition to the squad. At 17 it could be some time before we see the best of Pedri, but he looks to be a superstar in the making, with the prospect of him and Ansu Fati linking up a truly scintillating thought.

    The youngster certainly fits the summer mantra of adding youth to an ageing squad, and after just one season in the Spanish second tier he’s already being integrated into the Barcelona first team, having appeared in all three of the club’s La Liga fixtures this season.

    AS Roma v Juventus - Serie A
    Arthur in action for the Serie A champions | MB Media/Getty Images

    Transferred To: Juventus (£65m + £9m add-ons)

    Grade: E

    While the potential £74m price tag certainly fits the bill of generating funds, the sale of Arthur Melo does little to appease those Barça fans worrying about their ageing, underperforming squad.

    The Brazilian midfielder is a quality operator and to see him transferred to a club who’ll no doubt pose stiff competition in Barcelona’s ongoing quest for European glory is a tragic move.  

    Arturo Vidal
    Arturo Vidal linked up with Antonio Conte at Inter | DeFodi Images/Getty Images

    Transferred To: Inter (free)

    Grade: D+

    The 2018 acquisition of Arturo Vidal was an odd move, but the Chile international was a mainstay in the Barcelona squad – if not the first team – for his two-year stay.

    Despite finding himself reduced to cameo roles early on last season, the 33-year-old had a major part to play in the club’s post-restart fixtures and he clearly had more to offer despite entering the twilight of his career. 

    Transferred To: Atletico Madrid (free)

    Grade: D-

    If your wage bill needs trimming and the average age of your squad needs lowering, then to get rid of your 33-year-old striker on a reported £405,000-a-week seems like common sense. However, Barcelona somehow even managed to make an absolute mess of this.

    Luis Suárez claimed he felt like the club were ‘kicking him out’, with club legend Lionel Messi publicly offering his support for the Uruguayan.

    The club eventually got their way, seeing their main striker head for rivals Atletico Madrid, leaving them threadbare in the centre-forward department. Difficult to conclude that they did well with this one despite achieving their goal.

    Nelson Semedo
    Semedo hasn’t hit the ground running in the Premier League | James Williamson – AMA/Getty Images

    Transferred To: Wolves (£27m + £10m add-ons)

    Grade: A-

    Ironically when club president Josep Maria Bartomeu provided his (very) shortlist of players who weren’t for sale this summer, Nélson Semedo was one of those mentioned.

    However, the Portugal international has since departed for Wolves in what represents a good deal for Barcelona. Despite cementing his place in the starting XI last season, an offer potentially rising to £37m was too good to refuse and Semedo’s early displays for Wolves suggest Barça were right to offload.

    Transferred To: Sevilla (£1.35m)

    Grade: D

    Similar to Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic may not quite be the player he was five years ago, but that’s not to say he didn’t still have qualities to offer at Camp Nou.

    The club can sugar-coat the departures of players no longer at their peak as much as they like, the fact is said players would still be at the club were it not for Barça’s ineptitude at balancing the books. And…yes, it was badly handled. Again.

    Previews - Neftchi FK v Galatasaray: UEFA Europa League Second Qualifying Round
    Arda Turan endured a torrid spell in Barcelona | Aziz Karimov/Getty Images

    Transferred To: Galatasaray (free)

    Grade: B+

    C’mon hands up, who’d forgotten about Arda Turan?

    Once one of the most creative talents in European football, the Turkey international’s move to Barcelona never even looked like working out, with 36 league appearances to show for his six-year spell at Camp Nou.

    The 33-year-old has spent the last three seasons on loan at Turkish side İstanbul Başakşehir, and the chance to finally offload a player from the wage bill who was never likely to feature again wasn’t to be missed.

    Transferred To: Paris Saint-Germain (free)

    Grade: C-

    Rafinha isn’t your archetypal Barça player, with his aggressive style of play not quite fitting the ‘Barcelona way’, however, for that exact reason he would have been a useful squad player should Koeman have needed a plan B.

    With so many summer departures his versatility could have been key and to lose a player of his quality without receiving a fee is poor business.

    Moussa Wague
    Moussa Wagué was deemed surplus to requirements by Ronald Koeman | Pier Marco Tacca/Getty Images

    Transferred To: PAOK (loan)

    Grade: C

    With just four La Liga appearances in two years, it’s difficult to see Moussa Wagué making inroads into the Barcelona first team, with the 22-year-old shipped out on loan for the second season running.

    With no reported loan fee and temporary employers PAOK not obliged to purchase the Senegal international, the move doesn’t seem a particularly fruitful one for a club in desperate need of funds.

    Marc Cucurella
    Marc Cucurella spent last season on loan at Getafe before signing permanently in the summer | Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

    Transferred To: Getafe (£9m)

    Grade: B+

    The curious case of Marc Cucurella.

    The Spaniard was sold to Eibar in July 2019 for €2m with Barca including a €4m buy-back clause which they exercised in typically bonkers fashion just 16 days later, only to then loan him out to Getafe two days later. Are you still following?

    While his versatility could have proved an asset, he never looked like making the grade at Camp Nou, and despite some shocking business back in 2019 the club have more than doubled their investment just over a year later.

    Transferred To: Benfica (loan)

    Grade: D

    Jean-Clair Todibo’s departure leaves Koeman with just four senior centre-backs, and while that doesn’t sound like any reason to panic, Samuel Umtiti’s injury record is cause for concern.

    Just Gerard Piqué, Clément Lenglet and Ronald Araújo remain, meaning Todibo could have been a handy squad player this season.

    Transferred To: UD Almeria (loan)

    Grade: B-

    Sergio Akieme was promoted to the senior squad with a glowing reference following his time with the B team, and was expected to be backup for Jordi Alba this season, however Koeman appears to prefer Junior Firpo.

    The youngster should get plenty of game time at Almeria which will aid his development and he could yet return to the club to challenge Alba.

    Transferred To: Girona (loan)

    Grade: D-

    Despite clocking up lofty goalscoring stats in the Barcelona B team, Monchu’s future at Camp Nou seems far from clear with the club inviting offers for the 21-year-old.

    After playing hardball for the majority of the summer and rejecting an £18m bid plus add-ons from Juventus, ultimately Barça were unable to cash in on the highly-rated youngster with the Old Lady and Premier League sides Brighton and West Ham unwilling to match the £36m valuation.

    If Monchu had a future at Camp Nou then a loan move to a second tier side could look like solid business as the 21-year-old looks to gain valuable experience, but with Barça clearly ready to sever ties it’s tough to see who wins with a temporary move to Girona and no obligation to buy at the end of the deal.

    Transferred To: Real Betis (loan)

    Grade: B

    Juan Miranda was supposed to be embarking on the second season of his two-year loan deal with Bundesliga side Schalke, however – despite an impressive end to the 2019/20 campaign – the left-back finds himself back on the unwanted list at Camp Nou.

    Despite clearly not being in Koeman’s plans this season, the 20-year-old has plenty of potential and a year of regular football in the Spanish top flight with Real Betis could prove to the Barça boss that Miranda has what it takes.

    The Blaugrana would undoubtedly have rather sold the youngster as they look to generate transfer funds, however, a loan deal may ultimately turn out to be the right decision (a sign of the times when their good business happens by accident).

    Barcelona’s Overall Transfer Grade – Summer 2020: C-

    In truth this could have been a whole lot worse and the Barça hierarchy can breathe a deep sigh of relief at escaping with a low C.

    The only reason the club’s final grade isn’t lower is because their summer business has the potential to be looked back on as quality work in seasons to come. The reality is – in terms of the here and now – their business has been poor.

    For a club of Barcelona’s stature to get themselves in such financial turmoil that their president publicly listed which players weren’t for sale, is quite frankly embarrassing. The wage bill may have been trimmed, however, the ramifications of their current plight could haunt them for years to come.

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