Barcelona hamstrung by terrible transfer window planning
Barcelona were in need of a pick-me-up after being beaten by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup and Pep Segura supplied it. Or he tried to.
The newly-promoted general manager said, immediately after the final whistle at the Santiago Bernabeu, that the club were "close" to completing deals for Borussia Dortmund's Ousmane Dembele and Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho. So close, in fact, that one week has passed and there's been no progression on the signing front.
If anything, things have regressed. Sporting director Robert Fernandez has twice played down expectations of signing Dembele and Coutinho. While admitting they're both targets and negotiations are taking place, he's gone to pains to explain just how difficult it is to push through these sort of top level transfers in the current landscape. You can't help think, though, that with better planning things may have been smoother.
That lack of planning is also evidenced by Barca's lack of outgoings. With the Spanish Super Cup out the way and the La Liga season one game old, they are still working with a first team squad of 27. That doesn't include Carles Alena, who is back with Barca B, or any players who may or may not arrive: Dembele, Coutinho, Angel Di Maria, Jean Michael Seri ...
Local media have reported that new coach Ernesto Valverde has become concerned at the club's inability to move players on -- let alone their failings in making signings following Neymar's departure. With a week to go in the transfer window, they need to shed, considering any incomings, at least five players.
Three are almost certain to leave: Sergi Samper, Douglas and Munir El Haddadi. Samper is close to a loan move to Las Palmas, while there's been interest in Douglas and Munir but, for one reason or another, they have still not left. One of Thomas Vermaelen or Marlon Santos will also move on, too. If it's Marlon, like Samper, it will only be a loan.
However, even accounting for those four departures, the club are still left with an excess of midfielders. As things stand, including Alena, who Valverde likes, there are currently 11 midfielders vying for just three places. That could still increase if Seri or Coutinho join, although various reports in the Catalan media say the former has now been ruled out.
Samper leaving will take that number down to 10, but that is still too many. Turan could leave for Galatasaray and there are reports Rafinha, currently out injured, will push for a transfer in search of regular football, but nothing looks immediate. Gomes, after a disappointing first year at Camp Nou, has also been linked with a move to Juventus.
Denis Suarez is not a player the club are ready to dispense of, but there's even talk he could be allowed to leave if they fail to free up space elsewhere. As with the incomings, it's all a bit of a mess.
Above all, it's not fair on the players involved. League campaigns are underway across Europe and they still don't know where they will be playing their football on Sept. 1. Some know, or at least expect, it will be away from Barcelona; others can't be completely sure either way.
Meanwhile, Valverde, trying to remain calm in what is an increasingly difficult time for the club, still has little actual idea what his squad will look like when the transfer window closes.
"[I'd like to] have a squad that matches the demands made of us," he said last week in his first open sign of frustration. "I trust that everything will turn out well."
Four days later, he's still waiting for everything to turn out well, when the fact of the matter is a club as big as Barca should not be going into the final week of the window with so much business pending. It leaves them in a terrible position at the end of what can only be described as a terrible summer.
All the clubs they're trying to buy from know they have cash and are desperate for signings; all clubs that are trying to buy (or loan) from them know that they need to get rid of players. It's catch 22. Either that overpay and are criticised or they sign no one and are criticised all the same. And either they undersell and are criticised or they refuse to sell and are left with an oversized squad.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.