We all know how stressful it can be starting a new job. Getting used to your new colleagues, surroundings and procedures can seem impossible. Imagine coming into a place of work that has been tremendously successful over a long period of time but the cracks are well and truly starting to appear. Sympathy has to be extended to Ernesto Valverde as this summer he has been employed into this situation.
Being given the top job at Barcelona is supposed to be one of the finest achievements that there is in football. He joined from Athletic Bilbao after Luis Enrique decided to call time on his three year period in charge at Barca over three months before his contract ran out. He saw out the remainder of the season but by Barcelona’s high standards it was a poor one.
Then came the question of a replacement? There was not a natural candidate for the job. Barcelona like to promote from their youth ranks and that is no different with coaches. Enrique spent three years at the start of his managerial career at Barcelona B before moving to Roma. Not to mention the eight years he spent at Barcelona as a player. That was his link to the club. Valverde’s link is less established. He spent two seasons at the Catalan club playing 22 times and scoring on eight occasions. Out of the managers Barca have opted for in the last 10 years, Valverde is the one with the loosest ties to the club.
Now comes perhaps the biggest blow for the new manager. Lionel Messi, the man who represents the essence of the Barcelona philosophy, is unhappy. Even though the club clearly sided with him when Neymar raised doubts about ever being the key man at Camp Nou. Neymar was sold to Paris St. Germain for a world record fee and Barcelona were powerless to do anyting about it. Valverde may have had little influence in the discussion to build another new team around Barcelona’s Argentinian talisman, but he is left with the pressure of doing so. Expectations on him and his side will not slacken just because they have sold one of their stars. As if all this was not bad enough, Luis Suarez is injured for over a month.
Barca have also struggled to get their main target after Neymar left. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is standing defiantly in the way of any advance for Philippe Coutinho. For now. It is a lose lose really for the Merseyside club as it seems only a matter of time before the transfer goes through. If he has a great season this year the interest will intensify. If he performs below par it will be a bad year for Liverpool and the transfer fee could be negotiated down. Regardless of the issue Barcelona and more importantly Valverde have failed on getting the man they want, or even need, to have a chance of being successful this campaign.
Messi is now being linked with a move to England and a reunion with former boss and current Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola. While the rumours will never materialise into anything, Messi’s frustration is well and truly displayed.
Messi has gone to the decision makers at Barca and offered up six names he believes should be let go as they do not meet the standards required to play for Barcelona.
Obviously Messi is a brilliant footballer. He can do things on the pitch that very few people ever have, can or ever will be able to. He is used to having a certain level of player around him and he can see that the players at the moment are not of that quality. For him to name names is too much. It is disrespectful to the players in question and the manager as he is clearly questioning his judgement.
We will take a look at the six players that are said to have made Messi’s transfer list.
Messi pulls no punches with the first name on his list. Recent summer signing and former Barcelona man Deulofeu. The problem is that the new arrival is chronically inconsistent and frustrating. On his day he can rip up defences with his direct dribbling and ability to skip past players. His final pass is questionable and he has never settle at any club. At both Barcelona and Everton (the two clubs he has been permanently signed to) he has been sent out on loan.
With the sale of Neymar the left wing position is free at Barca but Deulofeu is not ready to step up and take on that mantel by himself. The fact he is local to the area and has grown up being taught the Barcelona style of play is positive for the move. If he can put together more consistent form and develop his talent there is no reason why he cannot be a success. Is he a signing that is going to fire immediately? Probably not. Should he leave the club after such a short amount of time? Definitely not. He has a lot of potential and fits the club, over time he will be a success.
The Barca number 10 added Semedo to the list making that two of Valverde’s summer signings deemed not good enough. Semedo came from Portuguese club Benfica this summer and he was attracting interest from clubs like Manchester United. It seems like a good move for Barcelona. They have struggled to replace Dani Alves at right back since his strange switch to Juventus and Sergi Roberto, a central midfielder, has being playing at full back last season.
It is strange that Messi has attacked Semedo after such little time at the club. He is a talented player and Barcelona were not the only ones chasing his signature. That should be enough to highlight that the player has enormous ability. The Portuguese full back is only 23 and has plenty of time to develop. Again he should be given time to settle in to the club and show everybody what he can do.
Last season Digne made the switch from Paris St. Germain to Barcelona, the opposite of Neymar’s move this summer. As he plays predominantly as a left back there is no reason to think of the Frenchman as anything more than back up for the pacey Jordi Alba. Alba plays the majority of games and is a guaranteed starter for Barca.
While Digne is not exactly young at 24 he is four years younger that Barcelona’s first choice left full back. In that time he could develop and when Alba begins to decline with age Digne may be in a position to take over. Barcelona are famed for bringing through young players, this could work against Digne. They may want to offload his wage and give experience to a younger player who would demand less money. It is a difficult place for Digne as he surely will want consistent game time at this stage of his career.
This one did not really come as a surprise. Messi did a similar thing to this back in early 2017 when he wanted three stars axed by Barcelona. One of those? Andre Gomes. After the Spanish Super Cup defeat opposition players could not believe the level of Gomes’ recent form. While at Valencia he made a huge impression on the top two teams in Spanish football and both sides were interested in signing him. He decided on Barcelona but it appears he cannot impress their top player.
Gomes is a great talent and Barcelona need to start looking to him to perform. He has a difficult year and his confidence must be in tatters. He needs reassurance and he does not seem to be getting it. Barcelona’s midfield has been so good for so long and now that Andres Iniesta is starting to come to the end of his career and Xavi nothing more than a memory they need to focus on new players in this position. The main reason Messi questions his style is the pace at witch he moves the ball. Some believe that he does not fit Barcelona’s slick and speedy passing style. Hopefully Gomes can turn it around and find the type of form that got him the Barca move, if he is given the chance to that is.
Marc Andre Ter-Stegen
Ter-Stegen’s presence on the list is the most shocking. Claudio Bravo left for Manchester last year meaning that the German goalkeeper was a clear number 1. While he may not have had the best season of his career last year he is certainly one of the top keepers around. He is still relatively young for a goalkeeper at 25.
It is difficult to see where Messi is going with this one. Ter-Stegen is a potential long term star for the club. He has been a Barcelona player for three years now and is developing adequately. Who could Barcelona get in his place? There are not too many keepers in world football who are both available and an upgrade on their German shot-stopper.
Vidal was signed back in 2015 for Barcelona and has played only 16 times and in those appearances he has failed to make an impression. Vidal is very capable of playing at right back and with Sergi Roberto being shifted out of midfield to play there you must question why Vidal did not get the role.
If you take into consideration Vidal’s situation this is one that seems logical on Messi’s part. A bit part player who is beaten to his position by somebody playing out of position would seem incompetent. With the signing of Semedo it does look like goodbye for Vidal.
There is no doubt that Messi is on of the finest players we have ever seen. However, this is not really his area of expertise. It has been difficult enough for Valverde with the sale of Neymar, injury to Suarez and what seems to be the back end of a golden generation. He needs his star man to be behind him and the team now more than ever. Valverde needs to claim control of the situation and state his authority. It is early in his career as Barcelona manager and if he wants to have a long career at the Camp Nou he needs to show everybody who is in charge.
Messi does not need to complain about the squad, question managers decisions or give advice. He needs to play football and it has to be some of the best of his magnificent career to avoid a dark season, in which their fiercest rivals dominante again, for Barcelona