The Agony and the Ecstasy, part 2

The Agony and the Ecstasy, part 2

In Part 1 we looked at how a player’s age can influence a fan’s feelings when it comes to seeing new faces arrive at the club, but it is not just a lack of years that seems to make us fans worry. Oh no. There is so much more behind our obsession with who we do and do not sign that we needed a Part 2 in order to get through it all. So here it is. Enjoy.

As Barca fans there is a strange battle that seems to haunt our psyche, and that is the eternal challenge of balancing our love for La Masia with our need to sign already established names, our conscience seemingly unable to clear itself of the contradiction. “Who needs all that money, we grow our own!…well except for David Villa, oh and Eric Abidal and yeah Javier Mascherano but still…you can’t beat our youth system!

Such inner turmoil means that every time we spend money on some new face we instinctively, and often rightly, know that it is the end of the road for one of our homegrown talents. This tinges each new arrival with a sense of melancholy and loss, thinking as we do, of the youngster who now won’t get his chance. Yes we’re excited to see the fresh face. Yes, we did need new blood but still it’s a shame to see another of our potential prodigies shown the door.

We can see this consideration in nearly every signing (or potential signing) the club makes. Afellay arrives – does that mean the end of Nolito and Jonathan Dos Santos? Masch’ arrives – what about Oriol Romeu? Adriano turns up – why isn’t Bartra given his chance? But perhaps we can see how intensely we indulge in this inner argument if we consider the possibility of a few future faces, most notably the apparently imminent arrival of Cesc Fabregas at the supposed expense of Thiago. Add to this the sudden discussion we have entered into about central defenders, most of us having been shocked by Gabi Milito’s transfer request and then later relieved when he confirmed he would stay with us, and we see how a Barca fan’s yin and yang are constantly battling within us.

Perhaps there is no way to find the correct balance for a Barca coach/technical director, whereby those in charge are seen to give the kids their chance whilst also keeping the club’s circulation flowing with the arrival of new blood. Until we as fans can balance the books in our own heads that sometimes good young players will leave at the cost of ‘foreign’ signings, it seems we will always be tormented every time a new face arrives.

Someone who does seem able to balance both the sentimentality and reality of what the squad needs is of course Pep Guardiola, the current boss known to allow the cantera kids the time they need to gel within the team whilst also making key signings when needed. But perhaps it is because of Pep’s restrained approach to the transfer market that we, as fans, have become so obsessive and contradictory when it comes to who we do and do not sign, so minimal in number have his signings been.

Apart from his debut season where a good half dozen players arrived, Pep has stuck to his policy of signing fewer, more dynamic players who will cover many gaps within the squad instead of the previous policy of like-for-like signings (one striker goes – buy a striker, a centre-back for a centre-back, et al). This has obviously had countless positive effects upon the team; a strong group bond, a small, stable squad, the youth are given their chance. But along with such positives it has also served to put a lot of pressure on the new players arriving and what we as fans expect from them.

Imagine, if you will, our dastardly enemy Real Madrid and their willingness to sign up to 70 players every summer. Okay that figure may be a little low but you get my drift. As a fan you can pick and choose which new player you want to see really succeed and those you don’t mind seeing leave, safe in the knowledge that more will be along next summer to fill the void.

As Barca fans when a new player arrives, that’s it. He has to fit in. We have to like him. We have to believe in him. And yet so compact is the squad and so minimal the arrivals that we as fans cannot settle on any player, constantly debating and analysing which player would have suited us better. So while Pep and his team must take the credit for the nurturing, patient transfer system they have put in place, they must also take the blame when we as fans get dissappointed at our inability to play real life Championship Manager/FIFA/Pro-Evolution Soccer (choose the appropriate one!). I mean why can’t we just sign that one player we all want – oh wait we did, it was David Villa.

Until that dark day that Pep finally takes his final bow from the Barca dugout, I guess we just need to make our peace with the fact that our signings will be few and far between, safe in the knowledge that those that do arrive have been chosen by the great man himself.

Another interesting factor relating to Pep’s limited signings philosophy is the club’s apparent lack of funds; always available, never enough. Each summer we as fans tend to have a good idea of just how much the club is willing to fork out on new players and as such we all become accountants and economists. “We can afford a Cesc, a mid-quality right-back and a reserve goalie but Pastore will have to wait til next season.” And while this strange phenomenon may once again be linked to our enjoyment of certain computer games it also seems a natural part of a modern football that fans are permanently on the look out for the next great signing, and whether the club can afford such a deal.

Take David Villa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic as examples. No-one batted an eyelid when the club paid big money for Villa’s signature, this despite the fact that spending so much on one player would surely leave us needing to sell in order to buy or, even worse, pinching pennies when it came to any other reinforcements we might need. This is because everyone knew how great a player Villa is and just how well he would fit into the team’s fabric. As such he was deemed worth it.

Ibra on the other hand was seen as a waste of money, his arrival costing us much more than mere Euros. As Zlatan signed his contract many fans sighed sadly as they not only watched firm favourite Samuel Eto’o leave but also (thanks to our transfer budget knowledge) fans had to bid farewell to any possibility of the club signing the preferred option – David Villa. Too much knowledge can certainly be a dangerous thing, especially when it comes to football fans and possible transfer targets.

Maybe if the club just said we have no money to spend and we’re just gonna stick with what we’ve got then we could all relax and stop worrying about it? Oh wait, that is basically what the club has said and call me mad but I’m pretty sure we’re all still bloody worrying about it now, are we not?

In summary I guess there is little I can say to stop our obsession with the transfer market and the many hopes and fears it always brings with it. All I know is that each new signing is like the dawning of a new romance, each fresh face another flame for our hearts. Players come, and players go, all of them make their mark. Some of them we will truly love, some of them we will love a little less. We will believe in them and support them, all the time wondering if we could not have done a little better for ourselves.

Or perhaps we were better off with our previous love. I mean seriously, we all seem to have a real crush on Cesc so it must be real love mustn’t it? Why did we let him go in the first place!? We are so damn stupid. Come back Cesc!

But then again, that Pastore’s not bad either and Samir Nasri has some fancy feet…damn stop it already…

I guess we just have so much love to give.