Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Barcelona pay penalty for being smartest guys in the room

The news that Barcelona have been hit with a two-window ban on signing new players for improperly acquiring international players under the age of 18 is a second legal strike against the Catalan giants.

With the book-fudging purchase of Neymar costing the club approximately €90 million and a President, the repeated infraction of FIFA’s policies governing youth transfers suggests the club’s boardroom sees the Blaugrana as above the pesky laws of an admittedly arcane and (mostly) impotent governing body.

The precise nature of the sanctions are yet to become clear; questions remain as to whether deals already completed (such as the purchases of Victor Valdes’ replacement, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and another “Next Messi”) will in fact be voided. Were this to happen, the club would find itself very much galloping down diarrhea drive without a paddle – or a boat.

This year, the club will lose Valdes and their own personal Heimdall Carles Puyol. Rumours persist as to the eyes Xavi Hernandez makes at MLS, and specifically NYCFC. Thiago Alcantara, perhaps the most exciting prospect to exit La Masia in years, now plays for Bayern Munich. In the event of a Gerard Pique injury, next season’s defensive nucleus could conceivably be the immortal trio of Jose Manuel Pinto, Javier Mascherano (meh, as a central defender) and one of Alexandre Song (ugh) or Marc Bartra (more palatable and infinitely more likely).

Pep Guardiola and his loveable bunch of mosquitos often played the role of the “goodies” in the black and white dramedy of La Liga football – which side was which coming very much down to the conscience of the individual spectator. While beholding to a pattern of play and players who have “always been Barca”, this on-field levity, utterly unapparent in their great domestic rivals, is now to have masked a questionable recruitment policy the club thought would (or could) be overlooked.

They were going to out-Wenger the continent. Illegally – those La Masia graduates weren’t all homegrown, but sapling transplants like Lionel Messi. Primary education matters – if a child is not taught early to read and write, how can they be expected to perform trigonometric calculus?
All over the footballing world, teams rise and fall – only precious few stay perpetually as true Champions’ League threats. When clubs rise – especially as high as Barca have – questions are usually asked as to the fairness of such a rise: people now regularly and rightly ask how much of its magickal, whimsical appeal football loses when run by stock analysts. While Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain now field two of the more star-studded outfits in the game, there is something unseemly about the nouveau-riche attitudes that have taken them there.

Barcelona has competed at the most elite of levels with a squad of guys who’ve played together for many years, through the club’s academy and reserve squads. However, some of these kids – including the “Korean Messi” – were rather more adopted than whelped. While this isn’t quite as uncouth as flashing great wads of cash, it may actually be more subversive in robbing grassroots football of its youthful optimism.

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