The exchange of Arthur for Pjanic in Barcelona was a commercial move, but for all the wrong reasons

Imagine, for a moment, that everything turns out perfectly from FC Barcelona’s point of view. Imagine that within a year, the agreement to sell Arthur Melo to Juventus for 72 million euros (with another 10 million euros in possible accessories) and sign Miralem Pjanic from Juventus for 60 million euros (plus 5 million euros in possible Add-ons) works so well that those rates, or better yet one of them, no longer look so bloated. Hell, imagine it becomes a bargain. Yes, even when the increase in the salary bill is taken into account. Imagine that everything begins to seem like a stroke of genius.

– Transfer news: Arthur joins Juventus, Pjanic to Barcelona

Imagine that Pjanic turns out to be exactly the player that Barcelona needs; imagine that they win the league and the Champions League with their new signing. Imagine him scoring the winner, if you like. (A brilliant goal too.) Imagine that, at the same time, Arthur does nothing at Juve. Not next year or any year for the next decade, long after Pjanic has retired. Imagine him just playing; Imagine looking at him, hurt and uncommitted, and make no mistake, some at Camp Nou would love that, and thinking how smart he seems to have gotten rid of, it’s his fault.

Imagine all of that, and this deal is still a defeat. As good as it is, this is still another expression of failure, still symbolic of a system malfunction. It’s not so much Arthur’s departure itself that saddens some fans, and it’s certainly not Pjanic’s arrival; It is what it all means. What it reveals, again. Imagine that this ends up being the right move, and could be, even for the wrong reasons.

Since joining Barcelona in 2018, Arthur has started less than 50% of his games. He was hurt a lot. He was also charged quite a bit, with reports of late nights out leaked to local media at the right times. (Expect it to accelerate now that the club is trying to justify the sale of allegedly ruined property.) Every time Arthur played, his performance at Wembley (leading Barcelona to a 4-2 victory over Tottenham in the Champions League, group stage, again in 2018) was never repeated. Xavi’s performances weren’t repeated either, and after all, that’s how it came. But the “New Xavi” provided only four goals and six assists. In Seville last week, I was always backing down, a metaphor for the past few months.

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But that’s not why it goes away, even if it helps. For all those problems, for all the defects, a survey in Sport showed that 77% said it was no It is a good idea to sell it, and that despite the fact that the question is loaded and is not entirely accurate. “It is a good idea to sell it for 70 million euros,” he said. And it does not matter they: Ask the people you are supposed to ask this kind of thing and they would agree. Arthur did not want to go: he had to be pushed towards the door. And it wasn’t Barcelona’s coaching staff that pushed him that way: they didn’t want him to leave.

Arthur’s departure does not have as much to do with football as it does with finances, which helps explain an apparently strange deal in which Barcelona and Juventus have exchanged the players, with an additional 10 million euros paid by Juventus. 70 million euros, they said it was worth it. But there are no 70 million euros to pay, except in the spreadsheet.

The valuation of the two players seems high in a post-pandemic market, and these are not deals that would have been achieved without the other. Nor are these rates, which exist in isolation; Pjanic only “worth” 60 million euros why Arthur “is worth” 70 million euros, and vice versa. By setting the price there, as high as they could, both clubs found a solution. Not in the field, but outside it. And in the short term, especially in the case of Barcelona.

Don’t worry about the players for a moment: this is an agreement that brings Juventus and Barcelona closer to being able to post earnings before the end of the financial year, which is later this month. The incoming “money”, and it bears repeating that the only cash on the move is € 10 million, is immediate income in full. The outgoing cost is distributed throughout the duration of their contracts through amortization. Hello, ready, about a profit of 50 million euros. Which is useful when it comes to FFP. Accounting is more creative than midfielders.

For Barcelona, ​​that is particularly important. More specifically, for the Barcelona directory it is. Sam Marsden and Moi Llorens have explained in these pages how Barcelona already needed to raise € 124 million in sales this season, which put them in the position of needing to find around € 60 million before July 1. And that was before the effects of the pandemic were calculated. If they did not, the board would be personally responsible for 15% of the loss, under the 1990 law governing club structures. That That is why Barcelona was so desperate to reach an agreement, why an apparently strange exchange occurred.

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That Barcelona found itself in that position was worrying enough. How they got there, and what it means, is profoundly revealing and more deeply troubling, even given the unexpected shock of the coronavirus pandemic, for which, of course, they are beyond reproach. It is what it says about your ability to form a team and build a team, it says about the structure, the whole institution. It is that another succession is broken, another broken transfer, another plan in pieces. The image is bigger than Pjanic.

In 2014, Luis Suárez, Ivan Rakitic and Marc-Andre ter Stegen signed. That was the last market managed by Andoni Zubizarreta as sports director before being fired. The following summer they won the triples, which is the best thing that could happen to a club, but in the long run it might not have been so good for Barcelona. Since then, they have signed: Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal, Andre Gomes, Paco Alcácer, Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne, Jasper Cillessen, Denis Suárez, Marlon, Yerry Mina, Gerard Deulofeu, Nelson Semedo, Paulinho, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Jean -Clair Todibo, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Jeison Murillo, Arturo Vidal, Arthur, Clement Lenglet, Malcom, Antoine Griezmann, Frenkie De Jong, Neto, Junior Firpo, Emerson and Martin Braithwaite.

Those were the ones that came, their search for strikers this summer turned out to be embarrassing, and half of them are no longer there. It is too early to judge De Jong. Dembele may come in handy as she addresses her fourth season with the club telling him that, hey, maybe he would like to look elsewhere too. Griezmann could too, but doubts and debate accelerate, and he knows it.

There has been bad luck and a lot. guilt need not be sought for everything. And some of those signings were always intended to be short-term solutions. Penalty fee. But that is a billion players euros, and how many of them can be considered a success without reservation? Seriously. None? The money they got for Neymar, which they quickly spent, desperate to make amends and start a spiral they’ve been trapped in ever since, it’s all gone, and for what? So they can try to get it back but don’t have the money to do it?

Neymar was the player who was supposed to guarantee Barcelona’s future, play alongside Messi and then replace him. Makes sense. But they couldn’t stop him from leaving, and they couldn’t or didn’t want to go back when they realized that all those other plans weren’t working, even though he was desperate to go back. They couldn’t buy it, but it still cost them. Much of that money had already been spent in Coutinho. The man they suggested might be the new Iniesta, but he left and came back again and who they are desperate to get rid of once again, and forever this time.

For now, it is Arthur who has left, mainly because among the many players that Barcelona tried to pressure, he was the one who was finally able to convince them to leave. Even if things develop perfectly from here, even if Pjanic is brilliant and Arthur is not, that is a failure. It is not just that they have sold the Brazilian, it is that they sold a player who was a strategic signing, one that made sense for a player whose arrival seemed to be a sign that they were reconnecting with his identity and essence.

They looked for the correct signature, not only resorted to the name that caught their attention, who were available. They planned their future, but they couldn’t help but lose their religion.

People will laugh at the “New Xavi” thing now, and it was always a millstone, a title that must be handled with care and better avoided, but it wasn’t just the media that made that claim, something to be blamed on. the outsiders. It was the club. Robert Fernández, the sports director, said it explicitly. He is no longer the sports director. Messi compared him to Xavi too. Oh, and Xavi himself said that Arthur had “Barcelona DNA”.

Today he is a Juventus player.

“The money should be on the court, not in the bank,” Johan Cruyff used to say, but Barcelona needed it on the books, and fast. He was not Xavi, critics will say, and they will be right. But even Xavi wasn’t Xavi until he was 28. Arthur is 23 years old and was supposed to be at the club for years, but in the week Lionel Messi turned 33, he left, reduced to a number on the balance sheet.