Nine years ago, I had a huge feeling of sadness. On July 16 2008, Ronaldinho left Barcelona for AC Milan. At 10 years of age, this was very hard to take. One of my favourite players, a player that lit up the Camp Nou from my first trips to the great stadium, was leaving my favourite club. It was always coming, but I didn’t want to believe it. I couldn’t see past Ronaldinho, for me there was no future after him. We had Leo Messi, Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, but, as an irrational 10-year-old, it was the end of Barcelona.
The departure of Neymar may feel like the end of Barcelona for a lot of people, but I urge you to stop thinking like 10-year-old me. There is a massive future for this club after Neymar, if managed correctly.
Selling Neymar has obviously given the club a huge boost in transfer funds, but there is a lot more to take into consideration.
From day one, Luis Enrique was forced to play in the same way, with a focal point to the ‘trident’. This was what everyone within the club wanted. This was the way to make money. ‘MSN’ was a huge money making scheme, the marketability of three of the world’s best players, all in one team, was astronomical, and it was unthinkable to drop or substitute one of them even if they were having a poor game. Ernesto Valverde now has the freedom to try new things, and not be expected to have the same three players on the top of the team sheet every week, he can play Gerard Deulofeu on the wing one week and Denis Suárez the next, and not have to endure a media storm when this happens.
With Neymar gone, Luis Suárez ageing and a gap in the midfield, players looking to join FCB can now see an opening. When Barça were linked with the Paulo Dybala’s and Ousmane Dembélé’s, the same problem always popped up: “Where will they play?” and “how can we afford them?”. Now players looking to join the club can actually see themselves within the side, instead of being shunned by the daunting task of dethroning ‘MSN’ and the ‘Gala XI’.
We are now looking at a Barça squad that, with some youngsters returning from loan, is looking fresh. There is still work to be done, the sale of players like Arda Turan, Thomas Vermaelen (yes he’s still alive), and Douglas is imperative. With the arrival/return of Marlon Santos, Sergi Samper, Deulofeu and Nélson Semedo, the signs are positive. It remains to be seen what kind of role the youngsters will play under Valverde, with Carles Aleñá playing well in preseason but Munir’s future seemingly up in the air, however there is reason to be optimistic. There is still a need for big signings, but rumours suggest that they are on the way.
As Neymar shifts his career path to become the Brazilian poster boy he always wanted to be but never could be in Catalonia, the club needs to move on from marketability and money-making and focus on sporting success. With the current board, it feels like a tough ask, but the foundations are in place. All it takes now is simple but important decisions to be put into action for the club to remain a superpower in Europe and the world.
Neymar never felt like a Barcelona player. A shady transfer story leading to a complete mess at the club, a shady father acting on his behalf who took the club for a ride, and a person who has always felt like a model, fashion icon and a celebrity before a football player. A person who seemed more interested in fame, money and his hairstyle. A person who let a transfer story go on for weeks without respecting the club or the fans. This isn’t a person that we should be begging to stay.
It is easy to think like 10-year-old me at this time but it feels like the same scenario can happen almost a decade after Ronaldinho left. A fresh page has been turned and success is more than possible.