Forget Neymar: Barcelona will be a far better side after £277m summer spending spree

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A lot has been made of how Barcelona have shot themselves in the foot with their transfer dealings this summer, particularly after the sale of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain in a world record £196million deal. Losing the Brazilian appeared to be down to the club’s own arrogance and failure to appease the player, who had been considering his future for quite some time.

Many believe the Blaugrana are in crisis, powerless to stop bitter rivals Real Madrid dominating further in Spain and Europe over the next season and beyond. Yet, looking at the situation objectively, there is an argument which suggests Barcelona could actually come out in a better state than the one Luis Enrique left to new boss Ernesto Valverde when he departed at the end of the season.

Whilst Neymar, Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez had combined superbly over the last three seasons, the team’s style was being compromised in order to get the most out of them. Players like Xavi Hernandez and Dani Alves had left, with either no replacement or a poor option coming in. The wage budget was bursting at the seams to accommodate their superstars too.

Nelson Semedo came in to finally replace Alves at right back before Neymar left, and that departure has allowed Valverde to sign Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund as Neymar’s successor and have money left over to chase Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool. Coutinho prefers to play wide left, but is seen more as a long-term replacement for Andres Iniesta at Camp Nou. Paulinho, the former Tottenham midfielder signed from Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande under a cloud of controversy, will also offer a different option.

With or without Neymar’s departure, Barcelona would still have been at a crossroads this summer. As their squad has aged, with Messi, Suarez, Iniesta and Pique all 30 or older, Valverde needed to find new solutions. La Masia, the club’s fabled youth academy responsible for producing four of those five players, has not been fruitful for a number of years now. In many ways, the supreme trident of the MSN was bringing success that papered over a lot of cracks. That wouldn’t last forever and they needed a new plan, to get back to basics.

Looking inwards was never going to bring the same success as when Pep Guardiola did as manager in 2008, creating a home-grown monster team which won 16 trophies in four years. The money available before Neymar’s move was never enough to cover all the bases. Their team looks in better shape overall now because they have strengthened across the pitch.

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An obvious counter argument was that letting Neymar leave, as if they had a choice, was not productive because he was a readymade replacement for Messi. But at 25, he couldn’t wait for Messi to fade, but in Dembele, a 20-year-old, they have someone they can develop until he is ready to take that mantle. His reputation in France is huge, and has only been forgotten to a degree because of Kylian Mbappe’s emergence.

The disarray at Barcelona is passing and they still have a lot to be positive about. Coutinho is a possibility given that the Spanish transfer window does not shut until Friday night. Should he sign, he will give back the stardust the team is lacking without Neymar. Barcelona are at a weak point and have been for a while, but it is the dawn of a new era. They will come out of this summer stronger as a direct result of their losses and gains throughout.

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