When Barcelona won the Club World Championship in 2009, they stamped their name as one of the greatest teams of all time by winning six trophies in one year. It was not just about the win, but the graceful manner at which they tore teams apart. The Catalan outfit played some of the finest football, but they did so with a team built from their academy players.
La Masia became the talk of the time, football fans, in general, used it as a point of reference for other clubs. It became the de facto best academy in the world. At that time, it felt as though nothing could go wrong for them – that their Academy would keep producing world class talents and they would continue their domination.
Seven years later, however, all the talk about La Masia has faded into the nil and Barcelona find themselves in a rut. They might have just signed Nelson Semedo from Benfica, but a look at their squad would reveal the mess that they are in.
In attack, they are fine. They have the MSN and have also signed Gerard Deulofeu who, despite a disappointing Euro U21, remains a decent backup for the front line. However, apart from that, the quality of the players in midfield and defence is something that doesn’t put them among the very best in Europe.
In defence, only Gerard Pique could be labelled as world class while Mascherano is also on the decline and Jordi Alba seems to have lost some of the flair that he once had. The likes of Lucas Digne and Aleix Vidal leave a lot to be desired. However, Samuel Umtiti gives hope for a new dawn as he had an excellent debut season at the Camp Nou.
Once upon a time, Andres Iniesta was the best midfielder in the world. However, with his continuous decline, Barcelona’s midfield doesn’t have the power that it once did. While Ivan Rakitic has done a good job, he hasn’t been as consistent as Barcelona would have hoped for.
Sergio Busquets, meanwhile, hasn’t been at his best since Iniesta’s abilities began to wane. This is why Barcelona are desperate to bring in a central midfielder and have targeted Marco Verratti for it, but it seems highly unlikely that PSG would sell the Italian.
And Barcelona, seemingly, doesn’t have the cash to sign him – which brings us to the next point: finances.
Barcelona president, Josep Bartomeu, confirmed a few days ago that the club had a €60 million to sign players in this window. Of that, €42 million has been spent on the acquisition of Gerard Deulofeu and Semedo.
So, in short, Barcelona will have to sell in order to buy. Another reason that makes it obligatory for them to sell is their wage structure. Bartomeu confirmed that Messi’s pay rose to €565,000 per-week in his new contract and that takes the wage bill above the recommended limit.
With the likes of Paco Alcacer, Arda Turan and Andre Gomes – players who have been subpar for Barcelona – all earning close to €100000-a-week, respectively, Barcelona are essentially giving away around €15 million a year for players who are not improving their team in any way.
Compare them to Madrid, and the wound is going to hurt much more. The Blancos have added two of the best midfielders from last season in Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente along with the world’s best teenage left-back, Theo Hernandez. Oh, and let’s not forget that they could yet add Kylian Mbappe to their ranks.
There was once a time Barcelona were seemingly invincible; they were on the pinnacle of the football world. Perhaps that’s what made them take things for granted.
Their over-confidence on the academy and poor dealings in the transfer market, coupled with the haphazard distribution of wages, has put them in the mess that they are in today.