Apologies for the lack of posts over the last two weeks. I’m now back in Barcelona and with my batteries recharged I’m ready for the new season. There has been a fair bit of news since my last post so let’s start with the transfer stories.
It was clear at the start of the summer that we needed to reinforce the centre of the defence and following the incorporation of Jeremy Mathieu we have now brought in Thomas Vermaelen from Arsenal for a reported price of €15 million + 4 million in variables. Vermaelen was never at the top of anybody’s list as a preferred signing and with a history of injuries he seems rather risky. The 28-year-old Belgian defender lost his place in Arsenal’s first team as Arsene Wenger preferred Mertesacker and Koscielny, and he arrives at Barça with a hamstring injury picked up after playing just half an hour for Belgium in the World Cup. Vermaelen is a quality defender but something seems wrong if he is the best we can find. I hope he gets fit soon and starts proving his talent, if he can avoid further injury problems he may prove a shrewd buy but for now I get the impression that his signing has produced more groans than cheers from the Barça faithful.
The only other signing since Vermaelen was confirmed today when Sao Paolo’s president Carlos Miguel Aidar announced that 24-year-old right back Douglas Pereira dos Santos will sign for Barça for a fee of €6 million. Douglas will remain at Sao Paolo for a year on loan and join Barça in 2015. Dani Alves has confirmed he will remain at Barça for another season so Douglas is being prepared as his replacement for the 2015/16 season. I can’t give an opinion on Douglas as I’ve never seen him play but I’m glad Alves is staying, and I think that Cuadrado, despite his talent going forward, was too expensive for a player who according to his national coach “can’t defend”.
The return of Gerard Deulofeu didn’t last long as the forward has been loaned out again, this time to Sevilla. I was hoping we’d see an explosion from Deulo this season but I can only say I fully back Luis Enrique if he feels the player doesn’t have the right attitude or defend enough. Discipline and teamwork are fundamental to success and I’m pleased to see our new coach is showing who is boss.
With Alex Song looking at a move back to Arsenal, Barça will have a first team squad of the following 22 players: Ter Stegen, Bravo, Masip, Alves, Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Vermaelen, Mathieu, Alba, Adriano, Mascherano, Busquets, Xavi, Rakitic, Sergi Roberto, Iniesta, Rafinha, Pedro, Suarez, Messi and Neymar. There is promising support from an excellent-looking Barça B squad with Samper, Sandro, Grimaldo and particuarly Munir looking the most likely to get first team chances this season. The form of Munir most likely helped with the decision to loan out Deulofeu, and if the youngster continues to improve it is going to be very difficult to ignore him.
The other important news is the announcement that FIFA intend to uphold Barça’s transfer ban which would mean the club couldn’t sign anybody once this summer’s transfer window closes until 2016. Sometimes there seems to be a belief within the club that Barça can somehow avoid justice (and who am I to say the ban won’t get lifted before it is served). However, the signings we have made this summer don’t seem to reflect any planning for if in the end we can’t sign next year.
All in all the summer transfers have fallen a bit short of expectations but the two latest friendlies that both ended 6-0 offer hope that we are on the right track. However, the real test begins with the start of La Liga on Sunday with Elche’s visit to Camp Nou. Watch out for the match preview coming soon.