What next for cash rich but Ney­mar less Barcelona?

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Barcelona find them­selves flush with 222 mil­lion euros ($263.5 mil­lion), but faced with re­plac­ing one of the world’s best play­ers after Ney­mar’s move to Paris Saint-Ger­main smashed the world trans­fer record. The Cata­lans’ un­der pres­sure board don’t have much time to re­act with the trans­fer win­dow set to shut on Au­gust 31. How­ever, they can still count on one of the most tal­ented squads in the world led by the likes of Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez. Here, AFP Sports looks at what Barca must do to try and gain ground on bit­ter ri­vals and Span­ish and Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Real Madrid.

Avoid Figo-es­que cri­sis

Barca will suf­fer on the field for Ney­mar’s ab­sence, but see­ing one of their prized as­sets snatched away to an in­fe­rior league is also a mas­sive blow to Barca’s pres­tige and a re­minder of days they thought were long gone. The Cata­lans used to strug­gle to hold onto star names, par­tic­u­larly when Madrid’s riches came call­ing. Luis Milla, Michael Lau­drup and most fa­mously Luis Figo crossed Span­ish foot­ball’s great di­vide.

When Figo left in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances to Ney­mar as Madrid paid his buy­out clause for a world record fee in 2000, it floored Barca on the pitch and in the board­room. The money was wasted and they didn’t win a ma­jor tro­phy for five sea­sons. Then came Messi and a host of world class home-grown tal­ents to pro­pel Barca to their most suc­cess­ful ever era, win­ning eight La Liga ti­tles and four Cham­pi­ons Leagues ti­tles in the past 12 years.

In the 17 years since Figo left Barca have be­come a brand and one of the rich­est clubs in the world, plus they still have Messi. All of which should en­sure the fal­low pe­riod that fol­lowed Figo’s de­par­ture isn’t re­peated.

The big­gest chal­lenge for Barca pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu is now how much cash to splash in the next four weeks, es­pe­cially after two years in which they have largely over­paid for lit­tle re­turn in the trans­fer mar­ket on the likes of An­dre Gomes, Paco Al­cacer and Arda Tu­ran. There will be pres­sure for the Cata­lans to re­assert them­selves by land­ing a marquee sign­ing with Phillippe Coutinho, Ous­mane Dem­bele, Paulo Dy­bala and Kylian Mbappe all linked.

How­ever, find­ing a like for like re­place­ment for Ney­mar will be im­pos­si­ble that is why he fetched a fee more than dou­ble the pre­vi­ous trans­fer record. With that in mind Barca may be bet­ter placed in the long run to save some money for fu­ture win­dows if they are not to end up poorer on the field and no bet­ter off fi­nan­cially from Ney­mar’s move.

Give youth a chance

Most wor­ry­ingly for Barca’s fu­ture is that Ney­mar has gone in his prime at 25, leav­ing be­hind an age­ing squad. Messi and Suarez are both 30, as is de­fen­sive leader Ger­ard Pique, whilst cap­tain An­dres Ini­esta is 34 and out of con­tract at the end of the sea­son. One of the crit­i­cisms of Barca’s evo­lu­tion in re­cent sea­sons since Pep Guardi­ola’s de­par­ture as coach in 2012 has been that grad­u­ates from the club’s once famed La Ma­sia academy have not been given a chance as the club turned to star sign­ings such as Suarez and Ney­mar.

“Barcelona have been sleep­ing,” Barca le­gend Xavi told the Tac­ti­cal Room last month. “They have to strengthen the youth academy.” In need of fresh blood, Barca could do with the academy that pro­duced Messi, Xavi and Ini­esta com­ing good once more. In Ney­mar’s de­part­ing words: “I made a trio with Messi and Suarez that made his­tory. Con­quered ev­ery­thing an ath­lete can con­quer.” For three years the ‘MSN’ formed a thrilling front line ar­guably un­ri­valled in foot­ball his­tory. In 110 matches to­gether, they scored a com­bined 228 goals. Yet, by build­ing the team around three for­wards, other parts of the team strug­gled, most no­tably mid­field which had been their strength in the glo­ri­ous Guardi­ola years.

The ‘MSN’ is no more, but if Barca use the Ney­mar funds to re­in­force their mid­field to back up the fire­power still pro­vided by Messi and Suarez, they will re­main a force to fear in La Liga and the Cham­pi­ons League.

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