Friday, September 25, 2020

From Griezmann to Boateng – Abidal´s Barcelona signings graded

SoccerNews in La Liga 18 Aug 2020

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Eric Abidal is the latest high-profile casualty at Barcelona as the fallout from their humiliating 8-2 Champions League elimination by Bayern Munich continues.

The Frenchman, a former Barca player, had been sporting director for two years and was axed on Tuesday, 24 hours on from Quique Setien losing his job as head coach.

While many expressed sympathy for Setien’s situation on Monday given he was only in the job for seven months, it’s unlikely Abidal will be afforded the same understanding.

Although Barca won LaLiga in 2018-19, their transfer dealings over the past two years – and, to be fair, before Abidal assumed the sporting director role – have been a regular source of criticism.

Following Abidal’s departure, we graded all of the players brought in under his stewardship.

2019-20

Antoine Griezmann – €120m from Atletico Madrid – F

It’s difficult to class Griezmann’s first year at Barca as anything other than a failure, and few would consider that to be his fault. The club spent so long pursuing him, but once they got their man they were unable to figure out how best to fit him into the team. By the end of the season, he was a regular on the bench.

Frenkie de Jong – €75m from Ajax – C

After a stunning 2018-19 with Ajax, it’d be fair to say many expected more from De Jong after moving to Barca, especially for such a large fee. He’s another who they haven’t been able to get the best out of as he is occupying a different role to when he was in the Eredivisie. While he hasn’t been dreadful, De Jong has underwhelmed.

Junior Firpo – €18m from Real Betis – D

Left-back Firpo had emerged as a good prospect at Real Betis and had been linked with Barca for a while before they signed him last year. But at Camp Nou he was a major disappointment, showing very little to suggest he will make it at the club long-term. Even under Setien, who had given him his breakthrough in Seville, he failed to enjoy much of a resurgence.

Neto – €26m from Valencia – C

Nothing more than a back-up goalkeeper. While his fee may seem a little alarming, he was essentially swapped for Jasper Cillessen, and Barca came out of the deal with a slight profit.

Martin Braithwaite – €18m from Leganes – D

It’s difficult to know where to even begin with this one. An emergency signing outside of the transfer window (allowed despite Barca offloading two young forwards in January), Barca had to pay over the odds to get him and essentially consigned Lega to relegation in the process. A willing competitor he may be, Braithwaite simply isn’t of the required standard and scored once in 11 LaLiga games. A bad player? No. A bad signing? Certainly, and his purchase highlighted the shoddy planning of Abidal and company.

To be determined:

Miralem Pjanic – €65m from Juventus

Francisco Trincao – €31m from Sporting Braga (loaned back until end of season)

Matheus Fernandes – €7m from Palmeiras (loaned to Real Valladolid until end of season)

Emerson – €12m from Atletico Mineiro (loaned to Real Betis until 2021)

Pedri – €6m from Las Palmas

Although the Pjanic deal, which sees the significantly younger Arthur go in the opposite direction, doesn’t seem to make a great deal of sense, some of these other deals are intriguing. Trincao and Pedri – particularly the latter, a silky 17-year-old playmaker – look like potentially world-class individuals, while full-back Emerson has shown significant promise at Betis.

2018-19

Clement Lenglet – €36m from Sevilla – B

Barca’s best signing during the Abidal era? It’s certainly arguable, though it’s worth pointing out he had been linked with Barca for several months before Abidal ascended to the sporting director role, so how much influence he had on the deal is uncertain. Nevertheless, a generally dependable centre-back, and one who fits Barca’s philosophical model, Lenglet is one of the few who doesn’t appear to be at risk of being consigned to the scrap heap this month. At this point, that’s about as close to a compliment as most Barca players can hope to get.

Jean-Clair Todibo – €1m from Toulouse – D

Another French centre-back who seemingly fitted Barca’s philosophy perfectly, but Todibo failed to convince Ernesto Valverde he was worthy of regular chances. He was sent out on loan to Schalke earlier this year with a purchase option, but the Germans couldn’t afford to trigger it. Undoubtedly talented but a taker of unnecessary risks at the back.

Kevin-Prince Boateng – On loan from Sassuolo – F

If there was one occurrence in world football in 2019 that elicited the same response from every fan, it would have been Boateng’s move to Barca – the aforementioned response? Bafflement. An exciting player in his day, sure, but Boateng had become somewhat nomadic by this point, and his arrival on a short-term loan from Sassuolo highlighted the dire situation of the club’s finances after the dud signings of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele. Though he may have been a risk-free signing, it was not a good look for the club. He played three LaLiga games.

Jeison Murillo – On loan from Valencia – F

Reportedly a special request from Valverde despite falling out of favour at Valencia, Murillo arrived on loan last January as injury cover for Samuel Umtiti and Thomas Vermaelen. He made just two league appearances.

Arturo Vidal – €18m from Bayern Munich – B-

Given he is by no means the archetypal Barca midfielder, many fans have struggled to take to Vidal, but none would be able to question his commitment. He has even chipped in with eight goals in the league this term, though at 33, don’t expect the Chilean to have any role of importance in the new era. Overall, not a bad signing, but it is still a little puzzling that Barca went for a player in his mould when he was already 31.

Arthur – €40m from Gremio – C

Seen by some as the long-term replacement for Xavi, Arthur undoubtedly showed promise 2018-19 and made 27 LaLiga appearances. He appeared well-placed to take another step forward in 2019-20, but for whatever reason was unable to do so, having made just 14 starts this term. He leaves under something of a cloud, but if we ignore the curious swap with Pjanic, Barca have at least made a healthy profit on him as Juve are set to pay at least €75m for the Brazilian.

Malcom – €40m from Bordeaux – F

Brazilian winger Malcom arrived at Barca with a burgeoning reputation after impressing for Bordeaux. The Blaugrana pipped Roma to his signing, but it proved to be an ill-advised marriage. He made 15 LaLiga appearances in his one season, scoring a single goal. Valverde seemingly didn’t rate him, and when he did play he appeared bereft of confidence. The one saving grace was that Barca managed to recoup their initial outlay by selling him to Zenit.

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