… and everything. Maybe it’s time for a moment of reflection. All the news floating around has made things difficult, but let’s try to take it in. Buckle up, this is going to be a long one.
With the 2016/17 season over and Luis Enrique’s tenure at FC Barcelona over, it remains to be seen how Ernesto Valverde will perform. This seems as good a place to start as any. The board signed him on as coach because they only seriously considered candidates with previous Barça experience. Valverde wore the blaugrana for two years, playing as a forward and netting 8 goals. However, we can safely say that he built his career around Bilbao, playing six years with them (1990-96) and coaching them in some capacity from 2001-2005 and again from 2013-2017. He led Athletic Club to their first trophy in 31 years with a Supercopa de España win over Barcelona in 2015. He also made it to the Copa final versus Barcelona, albeit in a losing effort.
Over his last spell with the team, he was known for getting his team to play aggressively. A staple of his defense was the 4-4-2 with both forwards pressing hard, seemingly never tiring throughout the 90 minutes. The high pressure he employed against teams like Barcelona and Real Madrid gave them a puncher’s chance in every game despite disadvantages in talent. Not allowing players comfortable with the ball any space nor time resulted in many changes of possession. They liked to pressure the middle of the field, forcing teams to play it towards the sides, where they could trap the ball and force turnovers. This fed into their offense, resulting in counter attacks often. They also liked to stretch the defense with long balls into dangerous areas. They could play this way because they had the personnel – speedy players like Iker Muniain and Iñaki Williams. And any coach capable of keeping a 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz relevant has some good tactics in my opinion.
But at a level of a team like Barcelona, he is still unproven. It remains to be seen how he handles rotations and substitutions, something Luis Enrique was criticized for. Something to be considered as well is his ability to manage star players and their star egos – because let’s face it, they can be difficult sometimes.
It seems that this was a safe choice for coach. He doesn’t seem to be high-risk in any way. The team won’t crash and burn with him at the helm, and they’ll continue to compete for every title. The upside might not be as high with him, however, as with other candidates.
Transfers that may happen maybe but no one really knows
Speaking of star players, there certainly is a lot of drama right now concerning Marco Verratti. Amidst reports of him wanting out of Paris, Barcelona have emerged as “the team”. By all accounts, he wants to be a culé. Xavi, the legend, hailed Verratti as his potential heir not too long ago. This is good for us – just take a look at these highlights:
But suffice it to say that the move is looking difficult. PSG, (apparently still bitter about their complete collapse to Barcelona in the Champions League – by the way, t’estimo Sergi) don’t want to sell him, much less to us. Verratti is frustrated, reportedly asking his lawyers what would happen if he failed to show up to the preseason to force a move. He did meet with Leo Messi in Ibiza, which led many to believe Messi is recruiting him. PSG resume training on July 4th, which further complicates things. Add to that newspaper covers like this and one can see why the situation is complicated.
Another option is Ousmane Dembélé from Borussia Dortmund. Negotiations with him are also proving to be complicated, as in a stroke of underhanded genius PSG are top suitors for him too. He, like Verratti, is a top quality player, even though he does play more offensively.
Héctor Bellerín seems like he will stay at Arsenal, which in my opinion is a good thing. However, it opens up a new can of worms: who will be the starting right back next season? Sergi Roberto (t’estimo Sergi), while impressing in the role, would be better served somewhere else and doesn’t seem a viable long term option. Aleix Vidal could fill in, but it remains to be seen whether Valverde will give him regular minutes. Theo Hernandez isn’t coming, and options like Darijo Srna have been ruled out (Kyle Walker, anyone?).
Also, what the heck is going on with Paulinho and why is Barcelona’s interest in him a thing? Someone enlighten me please, because this doesn’t make much sense. Original valuations by Guangzhou Evergrande had him at €40 million, and while talks now seem to be down to 25 million, that’s still too much. It would be funny in a sad way if the only player we’re able to get this window is Paulinho.
A transfer for Saúl seems unlikely right now, but he’s a fine player and he’s showing it with the under-21 team. The price Atletico Madrid have set for him may be a bit steep, though, at €80 million, and the deal might not be ideal this transfer window. All I can say is Robert Fernández has his work cut out for him.
Our side of the transfers
Hey, good news coming today:
Carles Aleñá has signed a new 3 year deal with FC Barcelona. His release clause: 75 million! pic.twitter.com/KS6Iv8ljSH
— totalBarça (@totalBarca) June 28, 2017
This is good especially considering Monaco’s thievery of a very promising young player in Jordi Mboula. The board have been criticized by many, including its own former players, for not using its Masia pipeline of promising young players as much. They’ve preferred instead to spend big and let young players walk (even when Carles Puyol is their agent). While they might still screw this up, it’s good to see them value Aleñá this way.
There were also rumors of Tottenham Hotspur bidding €35 million for André Gomes, but nothing ever came of that. While he is much-maligned, he still has the potential to be a good player and he’ll be glad to see faith placed in him.
Arda Turan seems to be out the door, with a €25 million move to Arsenal most likely. He was honestly a bit underwhelming in the midfield, and minutes at the forward spot will be hard to come by at FC Barcelona. Jérémy Mathieu’s move to Sporting CP in Portugal seems all but done as well.
The trigger is about to be pulled on Gerard Deulofeu’s buy-back clause, and he will be returning from Everton. He has also impressed in Milan and for the Spanish national team, and this appears to be a savvy move, bringing him back. It will be interesting to see him in the team sheet, as there have been rumblings about Valverde’s plan to play him at RW and move Messi into the midfield officially once and for all. While it is still up to him, he would be a good addition.
And I’m almost done thanks for still reading up to now
Messi is getting married soon in Rosario, and he just turned 30. It does the heart good to see him enjoying himself especially with a new contract due to be signed any day now. Congrats Leo!
Barça B restored hope to culés everywhere by achieving promotion to Segunda A with a 4-1 win over Racing Santander. They had a great season, and they’re back where they belong. And speaking of right back problems, what about Sergi Palencia? Look out for the B team in the coming years, they’re actually pretty good.
Dani Alves’s move to Manchester City and Pep Guardiola is a bit heartwarming but also sad… and on a free transfer again no less.
Barça Lassa, after a disappointing season, has become somewhat interesting again with Sito Alonso becoming the new head coach. I know this is a soccer website, but Barcelona basquet is looking up again.
This was just a small summary of all sorts of news surrounding the team. While there is certainly more to be elaborated on, our questions and uncertainties about transfers and tactics will be cleared up and answered in the coming weeks. Rumors will abound, from likely to likely impossible. Until the start of the new season, it’s summer. As you dive into the pool, dive head first into rumors as well – this sort of craziness only comes once a year.