As the 2021-22 season came to a close, and the summer stretched out before them, Barcelona were at a crossroads. A disappointing campaign had resulted in a group-stage exit from the Champions League and a distant second-place finish in La Liga. Financial strife was defining the club’s existence, and it was unsure what the future held for this club of supreme history and prestige.
It seemed there were two options for Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta and rest of the club’s hierarchy. Either they could cut costs, trim the squad, and attempt to rebuild from the bottom up, sacrificing short-term success on the pitch to create a more sustainable model for the club moving forward — a platform on which future glory could be built. Or, they could borrow more money in the hopes of achieving instant success and thus creating more revenue for the club sooner.
Needless to say, Barcelona have opted to go down the latter route, and you only need to look at their transfer business this summer to see that they are hell-bent on getting back on track as far as their domestic and European results are concerned. Their loosened purse strings have certainly made them more fancied by those who enjoy a football bet.
Raphinha, signed from Leeds United for over £50 million, represents the club’s biggest outlay of this summer transfer window, closely followed by the capture of Sevilla defender Jules Koundé, and the high-profile acquisition of Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich. They have also added a couple of shrewd free agents — Andreas Christensen from Chelsea and Franck Kessié from AC Milan.
All in all, Barcelona have brought in some stellar players, and with Xavi as manager, they have someone who knows the ins and outs of the club and is well placed to bring the best out of his players. However, it’s hard to ignore the element of risk that comes with this strategy — spending vast amounts of money on players who, while talented, are not guaranteed to be an instant success.
Lewandowski is the prime example. Yes, he has been the standout centre forward in Europe over the last decade or so, but he’ll be 34 by the time the transfer window shuts, and if Bayern were willing to let him go, it shows that they feel a decline is on the cards for the Polish international. Having spent the bulk of his career in the Bundesliga, there are no guarantees that Lewandowski will be able to adapt to La Liga quicky enough to yield instant success for Barcelona.
Raphinha is another player making a big change in his career. Having fought relegation at Leeds, where it’s fair to say he was a big fish in a small pond, he will now be going to a club where there is no hiding, and his performances will be under immense scrutiny week after week.
If Barcelona stumble this season, and don’t manage to capture a major trophy, one can only wonder what kind of state the club will be in next summer. Indeed, it’s hard to see how this extravagant spending won’t catch up with Barcelona in the end. We’ve seen enough examples of clubs falling from grace due to financial mismanagement to know that this story probably won’t have a happy ending.