Barcelona: Have They Lost Their Edge in the Transfer Market?

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Barcelona: Have They Lost Their Edge in the Transfer Market?
David Ramos/Getty Images

Nicht. Ne. Non. Niet. No.

Barcelona's delegates have been given the same stock answer at every turn during transfer negotiations this summer. 

No sooner has a door to a deal been prised open, than it has been firmly slammed shut again in the faces of Barca's willing, and needy, officials.

Worse still, it hasn't necessarily been the football clubs that have met Sandro Rosell's and Andoni Zubizaretta's narrative with a negative. 

Let's be honest—the players aren't falling over themselves to force the issue when their employers have rebuffed any Blaugrana approach, and we can infer an awful lot from that reticence. 

Has this classy Catalan behemoth lost it's edge? Are they no longer an attractive enough proposition for the world's top players? Are they to be reduced to also-rans in the transfer market once again, feeding on scraps?

That is certainly not the preserve of those who normally dine at Europe's top table.

Questions need to be asked about a previously unthinkable situation that threatens to derail Barcelona's campaign before it has started in earnest.

Only Neymar has been signed this summer—a signature which was a foregone conclusion

How is it that the supposed "best-club-in-the-world" for the last few years have been unable to force through any deals of note other than the closure of the Neymar saga?

The Brazilian was always going to sign for Barca in any event, it was more a question of timing.

During the Frank Rijkaard and Pep Guardiola eras particularly, agents and players were seemingly beating a path to the Camp Nou.

Ronaldinho, Deco, Dani Alves, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas amongst others, were all signed with relative ease.

Players wanted to play for Barcelona. 

Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

The history, aura and mystique of the club has always been an easy sell to outsiders, whilst canteranos Fabregas and Pique were just happy to go"home".

An unsurpassed body of work during the Guardiola years surely only added to an already masterful resume with which to entice the world's greatest players to join the Blaugrana ranks.

Yet the chaotic and embarrassing nature of this summer's transfer window for Barcelona has been anything but enticing.

Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Mats Hummels were just three of a number of high-profile names who Rosell and Zubizaretta failed to secure.

So what is the issue here? 

Don't let anyone kid you that it's because a player is "not for sale" because every player has his price.

Perhaps the crushing defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich last season had more long-term repercussions than could ever have been imagined?

Is it that the perceived "end of a cycle" is in some way to blame for players preferring to wear the all white of Real Madrid, or the red of Bayern, rather than the Blaugrana?

Could it be that Barcelona just don't have the money, and are unwilling to pay the astronomical sums being quoted for players in today's marketplace?

The frugality of the Rosell reign has been somewhat at odds with the profligate Joan Laporta presidency.

Outside auditors confirmed the football club's record loss of €79.6 million—announced not long after the beginning of the Rosell presidency (per TotalBarca)—and that it's debt had climbed to €430 million. 

Regardless of any in-fighting between the two old friends, the plain fact is for all of Laporta's charisma, he left the club in significantly poorer health on his way out.

To his credit, Rosell's board has worked hard to turn the situation into a €32 million operating profit at the end of last season and a lowering of the overall debt (per Goal.com).

Javier Faus, economic vice-president acknowledged; "For the first time in the history of the club we are getting a stabilisation between wages and sporting success."

Is a new Camp Nou restricting finances for incoming transfers?

Perhaps the real issue in financial terms lies in the future creation of a "new" Camp Nou. Faus again:

We have three proposals on the table, some more advanced than others but all with leading companies.

The options are to build a new stadium on the current site, build a new stadium in another location or reform the current stadium.

In any case, the plan needs to be feasible in the urban, technical and economic areas. We are looking to November or December to present some proposals.

Can we infer from such statements that Barcelona will not return to the "boom and bust" era that was the legacy of Laporta's time in office?

David Cannon/Getty Images
Joan Laporta left Barcelona with a lasting legacy...of debt

Will the cash will be much more shrewdly invested and wisely used, including for the purchasing of playing staff?

On the face of it, the signing of Neymar would appear to fly in the face of such logic of course, although the world's most marketable athlete (per Sam Cunningham, Daily Mail) will more than pay for his tenure.

The Brazilian aside, are Barca still in a position to negotiate for the world's best? 

A fee of €50 million for Chelsea's David Luiz is a preposterous amount and as desperate as Barca must be for their central defensive option, Rosell's blanket refusal to pay the same must be admired to some degree.

Supporters point to a second summer of transfer disappointment.

David Ramos/Getty Images
Alex Song's signing last year left fans underwhelmed. This summer's window threatens to do the same.

The signing of Alex Song last year to cover for Seydou Keita's departure was never going to spark a frenzy of excitement in Catalonia, and indeed his impact since has been minimal (Michael Cox, ESPN).

But ask yourself if you would really rather the club operated a "galactico" style signing policy that is the hallmark of arch-rivals Real Madrid.

Whatever the reasons for Barcelona's inability to enjoy a successful window this time, is there really genuine cause for concern?

Barca have a president who, whilst spectacularly unpopular, is at least being cautious and sensible in these lean economic times.

His legacy of leaving the club in a much healthier state than when he took over the reigns from Laporta surely bodes well for the future economics of the club.

Yet if the club can no longer attract the best footballing talent, then Rosell's presidency will be remembered for much more than saving a few million euros.

 

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