“Who doesn’t want to play for a club as big as Barcelona?”
Those were the words of Ajax defender Davinson Sanchez when he was asked about reports linking him with the Catalan club. Millions of kids across the globe would presumably give the same response.
But Davinson’s rhetorical question does not echo the thoughts of every professional footballer. Many are unwilling to join Barca to become simply a squad player.
“Barcelona sought me out, but what point is there in joining and then sitting on the bench behind Messi, Suarez and Neymar?” Napoli’s Dries Mertens said.
Nolito chose Manchester City over Barca because it was the “best decision for me and my career”
and Gabriel Jesus, who joined him at the Etihad Stadium, plumped for City because he would have more chances to play — “that made the difference.”
Gameiro, who opted for Atletico Madrid over the Blaugrana, was even more direct when explaining his decision.
“What am I going to do at Barca?” he questioned.
“There’s Neymar, Messi and Suarez. There are players like that who want to play every match, who refuse to go off for even 10 minutes at the end.”
Having missed out on all those players last summer, Barca eventually signed Paco Alcacer from Valencia. Alcacer’s season improved after Christmas but his lack of minutes showed why many before him felt they had to say no to Barcelona.
In total, he started just seven games in the league as Luis Enrique, a huge fan of rotating his squad whenever possible, struggled to take Messi, Neymar and Suarez out of his starting line-up.
That will be one of the challenges facing Barca’s new coach Ernesto Valverde’s: convincing Messi, Neymar and Suarez to take a rest from time to time and, in turn, finding players to avoid repeat slip ups against teams like Alaves, Deportivo La Coruna and Malaga.
It’s a recruiting problem that Barcelona need to solve quickly. When the new La Liga season begins both Messi and Suarez will be 30 and at some point Barca need to think about a succession plan.
They have done a terrible job planning for what comes after Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta in midfield and cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes when replacing parts of the MSN.