The transfer window closed in Spain on Friday evening, calling time on a poor summer for Barcelona. Lionel Messi is yet to sign a new contract, Neymar has waltzed the red carpet to Paris, and Coutinho remains on Merseyside.
An institutional crisis seeps through the corridors of Camp Nou, and it is best encapsulated by a series of quotations from throughout the long, arduous summer of 2017.
“We want Verratti and he wants to come” (Josep Bartomeu, July 8)
With the clear intention of avoiding an announced press conference, the president of Barcelona assured Catalan newspapers Mundo Deportivo and Sport that “Verratti is a player that the coaches like, Robert [Fernández] wants him to come, Ernesto Valverde as well, and [Pep] Segura and [Josep] Boada. The player knows that we want him to come to Barça.”
Marco Verratti remains in Paris. He was forced to apologise to PSG for statements his agent made regarding a move to Catalonia. Verratti subsequently changed his agent from Donato Di Campli to Mino Raiola in a move to appease the club. PSG took revenge in the form of Neymar.
“I am 200% that Neymar will stay” (Jordi Mestre, July 18)
Mestre made this statement on the first day that the international press, if not Barcelona, realised that that Neymar would leave. In the press conference called to announce Pep Segura as the club’s sporting manager, the Barça vice president blurted out a phrase for the history books. When asked about the possibility of the Brazilian leaving, Mestre replied: “I am 200% sure that Neymar will stay.”
“It’s heating up with Coutinho because it’s August” (Pep Segura, August 7)
It was the first time that a Barcelona executive faced a direct question about the Liverpool player. Before Barça faced Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, Segura gave the response that “If they say that things are heating up with Coutinho, it’s because it’s August and it’s hot”.
"We foresaw that he could leave in the future, that is why we raised his buyout clause in the new contact" (Bartomeu, August 7)
The Barcelona president put on a brave face following Neymar’s departure to PSG. Bartomeu maintained that increasing the 26-year-old’s release clause was a response to an inkling that he might leave.
He also spun the situation as a positive, whether Neymar had left or stayed: "If he stayed we would maintain a great player and if he went, obviously paying his clause, we had the guarantee of being able to bring new players.
“We’re close, but until everything is done we can’t say anything. We hope that Coutinho can wear the Azulgrana shirt.” (Pep Segura, August 16).
Three days later, Barcelona lost comprehensively to Real Madrid in the second-leg of the Spanish Super Cup. After criticising Gerard Piqué for scoring an own goal in the defeat, Segura proceeded to say that he couldn’t speak about Coutinho, while talking about Coutinho.
“I hope to have a better team by August 31.” (Ernesto Valverde, August 26).
After victory against Alavés, the Barcelona coach was forced to field questions about the club’s activity in the transfer market. Valverde reiterated the message that he delivered in clear terms before the match: “I hope to have a team that corresponds with the demands they place on me,” he said with an assumed glance to the club’s executives.
“My intention is that we sign one more player, maybe two.” (Robert Fernández, August 28)
At the presentation of Ousmane Dembélé, a €105m arrival from Borussia Dortmund and a sprout of optimism amid a barren landscape, Fernández assured that the Frenchman would not be the final arrival. He was the final arrival.
“It’s true that we’re in negotiations with a player… My intention is that we sign one more player, maybe two,” he said. His intentions did not become concrete acts.