PETE JENSON: Barca are losing their identity as well as their players

PETE JENSON: Barcelona are losing their identity as well as their best players… sending Antoine Griezmann back to Atletico at a £65m loss and taking a Sevilla cast-off in Luuk de Jong shows how far they have fallen

  • Barcelona have seen Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi leave this summer 
  • The cash-strapped Catalan club are losing their top stars as well as their identity 
  • Picking up Sevilla cast-off Luuk de Jong shows how far they have now fallen 
  • Days of fighting for league and Champions League double are a thing of the past 
  • Again they have made Atletico Madrid favourites for LaLiga by giving them a star

One day you’re meeting Mino Raiola to discuss signing Erling Haaland, and the next you are waving goodbye to Lionel Messi and flogging Antoine Griezmann back to the club you bought him from, at a £65million loss.

Barcelona’s disastrous summer (it was April when Laporta met Raiola) ended on Tuesday night with them buying Sevilla’s third-choice centre-forward Luuk de Jong.

The only consolation was that with the departure of Messi and Griezmann they had shaved around €85m (£73m) a year off the wage bill. 

 Antoine Griezmann has been sent back to Atletico Madrid and Barcelona signed Luuk de Jong

Barcelona have already seen Lionel Messi leave this summer to join Paris Saint-Germain

RB Leipzig also completed the signing of 18-year-old Ilaix Moriba from Barcelona for £14m

A club that recently declared a €1.3billion (£1.1bn) debt and a negative net worth of €450m (£387m) could do little else, but still it felt odd to see them rooting around in the bargain bin as the lights dimmed and the transfer window closed.

It’s been suggested they will not miss Griezmann. 

It’s true he looked lethargic at the weekend and was whistled by some inside the Nou Camp. But that state of affairs has only come about because he has been undermined since day one. 

Barca only won one trophy last season – the Copa del Rey – and he was their best player throughout that competition.

Spanish football analyst Fermin Suarez posted his stats on Twitter. He scored 35 goals and gave 16 assists in 102 games. But 19 of his goals were decisive, either the first in a game or putting Barca back in front. There were 106 key passes too and he only missed two matches because of injury.

Barcelona failed to make his signing work and they have sent him to a rival club.

Not content with helping Atletico to win LaLiga last year they have made them favourites again this time.

And it wasn’t just Griezmann. Last season Ilaix Moriba impressed Ronald Koeman so much that he gave the 18-year-old midfielder 14 games. Barca could not do enough to persuade him to stay and so he goes to RB Leipzig. And they failed to get rid of their biggest under-performing high earners. 

Spanish papers reacted to the ‘bombshell’ news of Griezmann returning to the Spanish capital

Griezmann looked lethargic at the weekend and was whistled by some inside the Nou Camp

 He returns to Atletico Madrid, where he was very successful, to play under Diego Simeone 

Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho were both whistled by supporters as they warmed up on Sunday (Umtiti for no good reason was whistled more loudly than Coutinho) and they were players Barcelona wanted to move on. There were no bids.

The arrival of De Jong on a season’s loan was confirmed at 3.30am local time by the club in the early hours of this morning. 

Despite scoring only 10 league goals in two seasons at Sevilla, De Jong did have his moments under Julen Lopetegui. 

But this summer Sevilla upgraded to the younger, hungrier and probably more prolific Rafa Mir. It’s a measure where Barcelona are at now that they have taken Sevilla’s cast-off.

Koeman, at least, will be happy with another familiar face. 

There is always the danger the team becomes ‘too Dutch’. But Koeman has got Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay playing as well as any players in LaLiga so that’s not high up on the club’s problem list right now. 

More pressing than him being another Holland international is that he barely fits the prototype pressing, nimble, glove-touch Barca forward; they are losing their identity as well as their best players.

Ronald Koeman is overseeing an incredibly tricky period as Barca lose their stars and identity

De Jong’s arrival means it is another Dutch international that has arrived under Koeman

For all the asset stripping, Koeman is still left with a reasonable squad. 

In Marc Andre ter Stegen and Neto he has two good keepers. He is covered at right back with Sergino Dest and Oscar Mingueza. Gerard Pique, Eric Garcia and Ronald Araujo are top central defenders and Jordi Alba remains at left back.

In midfield Pedri, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Roberto and Frenkie de Jong are strong and if they both get fit then Ansu Fati and Ousmane Dembele would form an exciting front three with Memphis Depay.

But Luuk de Jong, Martin Braithwaite and Sergio Aguero (if he ever plays for the club) makes for a strange line-up of reserve forwards. And Miralem Pjanic and Riqui Puig, plus the excellent but very inexperienced pair of 17-year-old Gavi and 19-year-old Nico Rodriguez hardly makes for strength in depth in midfield.

Koeman complained last season that he didn’t have a team to challenge for too much – now without Messi and Griezmann it’s a wonder where the season’s target lies.

Temporarily gone are the days of aiming for a league and Champions League double. It will be all they can do to finish above Atletico Madrid and Sevilla, who rinsed them in the transfer market and now look to have stronger squads than they do. 

Barcelona’s issue was not being able to shift high earners like Samuel Umtiti (left) and Philippe Coutinho (right) and both were loudly jeered by Barcelona supporters at the weekend

 Sergio Aguero is currently injured but he is part of a strange reserve set of strikers this season

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