Joan Laporta, president of FC Barcelona, spoke at length recently about a number of topics pertaining to the club and their summer transfer plans. He outlined the types of players Barça will be looking to sign this upcoming transfer window. He also spoke about the possibility of Lionel Messi’s return and the continuation of Xavi Hernández as Barcelona manager. It was an interesting conversation that said a lot about how the club will be approaching this summer and, by extension, next season. But, amongst the many answers he gave, Laporta made a mistake.
While speaking about possible signings, he had this to say:
"“Barça will surely have to sign a full-back and also a center-back as long as there is a good opportunity in this case. I think a striker will also have to arrive, but someone will have to come out.”Source Sport"
It’s the last part of this quote I’d like to focus on. Players like Ferran Torres, Ansu Fati, and even Raphinha have been rumored exits this off-season for Barça as they look to retool their squad. It’s also been known for a while now that Javier Tebas and La Liga are looking to make life difficult for Barça at every turn, especially with their salary cap.
FC Barcelona have been in a precarious financial situation for a number of years now, and under Laporta’s presidency the board have made significant progress towards fixing that. The appointment of Xavi as manager has also brought more sporting success as of late. The team is certainly in a much better position than they were just a few years ago.
However, Joan Laporta’s admission that someone will have to leave, while predictable, undermines Barça’s position this summer. Saying something like this aloud ruins their leverage when it comes to negotiating transfer fees. Think of it this way: If someone tells you that it’s absolutely necessary to get rid of something that they’re selling, then why would you offer them top dollar?
Joan Laporta is a president that makes a lot of appearances and tries to be as open as possible. This is good, in a certain sense. The fans of the team can have some transparency with regards to what’s going on. News outlets can write plenty of stories. Nevertheless, football is a business. And it’s not always ideal to be transparent when your rivals can know exactly what you’re planning and exactly what you need.
Teams that would want a player like Ferran or Ansu won’t find it necessary to overpay for them, since by Laporta’s own admission Barcelona are somewhat desperate to sell. If they desired a player that they believed Barça still counted on, teams would be forced to overpay a bit in order to wrest them away. However, if other executives know that Barça don’t count on a player like Ferran, they will naturally offer less. Laporta continues:
"“I am hearing that Barça will not be able to sign. Yes, it is true that we have exceeded the limit and that is going to limit us a lot, but we are working and we will do everything possible to sign. Some player will also have to leave, but we will sign.”Source Sport"
It’s true that he isn’t saying anything here that football fans and rival teams couldn’t already infer. But when it comes to negotiating, the language you use is important. You can say something like “we count on all our players”, or simply omit the last sentence entirely, to try to obfuscate the issue and cause some doubt.
I find it difficult to believe that Barcelona will be able to sell players this summer for any hugely significant amount of money, since teams around Europe know the situation the club is in. Comments like these, where the club openly admits that someone has to go, don’t help. It would be nice if, in the future, Joan Laporta could refrain from broadcasting his plans unnecessarily.