Miquel Àngel Casasnovas
What if dating was like silly season?
Newly single Biff Majestic is in the market. Rumor is that he has a pre-contract with the barista at the town coffee shop but when pressed for details, Mr. Majestic said no comment. The barista has been scouted by Majestic’s mother, who has glowing reports of her calmness under pressure and ability to “Bang out a perfect latte in 3 minutes.”
Majestic linked to co-worker! The previously reported barista signing is still a possibility, but there have been new developments. Majestic was spotted at lunch with an assistant vice president at his firm. Sources say there were smiles, and the VP was spotted at the coffee shop that Majestic is said to favor. Majestic’s Mom says, “We can’t say anything at this time, but I can report that Biff and I love our lattes.”
There are few things in football more irrational than transfer talk, where people are idiots not because of what they do, but because they won’t do what supporters WANT them to.
And yet it’s so seductive precisely because of its irrationality. Year after year, fans talk players — ones they would like to come, ones they would like to go — with the idea of buying the team exactly what it needs, even as they have absolutely zero idea what that team truly needs.
Supporters champion certain players above others, bandwagons form, a certain player becomes a must-have or the board/technical staff are a bunch of incompetents. Arguments ensue.
Here’s how it works:
“Sign somebody, dammit!”
“No, not him! He’s terrible! Somebody else.”
“THAT player??!! Crikey, really! Our sporting staff is stupid!”
“We didn’t sign a player. Our board sucks!”
This year’s Answer
Remember Ilkay Gundogan, aka “The Answer?”
Gundogan, for those who have been living under a rock, is a midfielder for Dortmund. He is a player that Barça is said to have have meetings with. Or more correctly with his representatives. Is there interest? Is it real interest? Gibber gibber, jabber jabber and suddenly Gundogan is the perfect player, the answer to all of our problems and prayers. And people start talking about him, pros … all pros. No cons. Do unicorns have flaws? Silence, blasphemer. Now that his back injury has removed him from transfer deification status, Marco Reus is The Answer, and off it goes again.
People who tell you to believe nothing believe any rumor, and get worked up about it. We Tweet, rant, debate about missives from sporting publications that we shouldn’t trust to take out the trash. Part of that is because transfer season needs for everyone to be stupid except for us, who know better than a sporting staff tasked with the job of staffing a world-class football team.
If Barça was to actually sign every player that the club was rumored to have an agreement, pre-agreement or whatever with, we couldn’t afford a takeaway sandwich, much less a new stadium and all that fun stuff.
So who knows?
I watch a lot of football. I have no fewer than 6 options, not counting Telemundo and that network family, that can sate my football needs. But if you were to give me keys to the castle for a day, I’ll be damned if I would know what to do. As strange as it sounds, I think that we have to trust the people in charge of making those decisions.
Only a fool would suggest that our technical staff is perfect, a bastion of knowledge and competence. And I ain’t no fool. Even saying they know more than I do isn’t giving them allthat much credit, because when it comes to making the kind of decision that would consign tens of millions of Euros of my club’s money to acquiring a player, I know about as much as I do about splitting an atom. “Hey, he runs fast. What’s he doing for the next four years.”
I exaggerate, but only slightly. Despite the popular view, we do have scouts and they are working. We have a technical director who is either a gibbering loon, a genius-in-waiting who has been overruled by the then Rosell-led board, or somewhere in between. I don’t know enough to know, and don’t trust any rumors to the contrary irrespective of the vehemence with which they are presented. What I can do is look at what that technical staff has done, and what it hasn’t done. Here’s what it has done:
Adriano, Alba, Mascherano, Neymar, Song, Sanchez, Fabregas, Ter Stegen, Halilovic, Denis Suarez
Here’s what it has NOT done:
A center back, ANY center back … lord be, is THAT too much to ask?
It’s very difficult to look at that list of transfers and conclude that our technical staff doesn’t know what it is doing, even as you can look at that non-transfer list and accuse them of various things, including neglect that verges on criminal. Whether that makes them incompetent or simply in the thrall of different masters is a debate for another time. Prima facie, they haven’t made bad signings. No Henriques, Cacereses or Keirrisons in the group. Not defending their neglect, just trying to add a bit of perspective.
Who the hell SHOULD we buy?
As bonkers as the incessant blizzard of rumors is, the value of any and all of the names is to my admittedly ignorant view, depth, competition and focus for the starters. No CB name that I have heard, for example, would sub for a focused, fit Pique. That list of names would also have a tough fight with Mascherano, as well. But Pique needs a goad to have that full-on, match in and match out focus, which is probably much of what’s behind his “We don’t need a CB signing” talk.
A deep, world-beating team has more than 2 functional CBs and some dudes “who can play CB in a pinch.” Mascherano is a DM who benefits from a system in which CBs function a lot like DMs. But our CBs are Pique and Bartra. Compare that to Manchester City with 4 CBs, or most other top-level teams.
Because of that desperate need we are being linked with any breathing CB on the planet from Javi Martinez, who we didn’t want to pay for at first asking, to Daniel Agger, who was discarded as an option in the past if you believe the Barça-centric sporting dailies, which read at times as though they are being penned by crack-addled squirrels. Hummels, Luiz, Mangala, Laporte, Balanta, Musacchio, Mathieu … you name the CB and we have been linked to him. To what end, apart from social media arguments and elevated blood pressure?
If you look at our roster, there isn’t a name being bandied about that I would prefer to see than the starters we have, but focused and with their shit together. Valdes (gone), Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba (well ..), Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi (on way out), Messi, Sanchez, Neymar.
So do we need transfers? Absolutely. The challenge will be buying the right players, as always, because every transfer is a crap shoot.
Everybody outta the pool!
Six to Seven players, goeth the rumors. X number of starters are leaving as the team gets an overhaul and we spend like drunken sailors on shore leave.
As Silly Season progresses people chase names and qualities that don’t exist, ready to discard what we already have. We see an attacker running hither and yon, frolicking in space. Put him in a phone booth and see how he does. For all we know he might be brilliant in the space-compressed world in which our offense forced to work in match after match. Sanchez came to us from Udinese, where he had room to run. At Barça he is mostly reduced to a square of space on the right wing. It’s no coincidence that many of Sanchez’s most memorable moments at Barça have come when he is on the run in space.
Depth is a crucial need on any championship contending team. Adding real depth to a starting XI comprised of top-class players brings a host of problems, most notably money and playing time. A player of the quality sufficient to give our established starters pause isn’t going to be happy sitting. So now what?
It’s easy to look at this player or that player as being the one who will make everything right. But to my dimwitted view when I look at what the club needs, absolutely needs, it starts with just a single day or week without some crap going on. Then it continues with a coach who has a mandate to kick ass and take names, then 2 CBs and a starting keeper who is almost certainly Ter Stegen.
Then the club has to jettison the players who aren’t getting time, like Afellay, Cuenca, Sergi Roberto, Dos Santos (who deserves a good long look before he is sold). If you can’t play for the club in a Champions League knockout tie, be gone. This means that Song and Tello probably shouldn’t buy green bananas for their Barcelona abodes.
From there on it gets a lot more nebulous. We have Rafinha definitely coming home, and while general consensus for some time was that Suarez will be going on loan next season, every time I watch him play for Barça B I think “He’s going on loan because …” Also in the pipeline is Sergi Samper, Adama, Deulofeu, maybe Dongou, and defenders such as Grimaldo, Ie and Bagnack. So I look at midfielders who people are salivating over and think, “After an apprenticeship under Xavi, what of Rafinha or Suarez?” Dunno.
So much will be rumored, speculated about and “confirmed” in this pre Silly Season, during the World Cup and in the actual Silly Season. It’s all nonsense, until it isn’t. My biggest ask would be that people look at who we have before deciding that someone else might be wonderful. Do that, and the answer might just surprise you.