Sunday, 4 August 2013

The state of modern football and FC Barcelona revolution


FC Barcelona is passing now through a very important stage in the club’s life-cycle. From being a team with excess of quality that dominated world football, to a more natural position as one of many strong teams in the world competing to win domestic and continental titles. The club is in a process now to re-position itself per se.

I do believe the first step was made successfully by hiring Gerardo 'Tata' Martino as a coach, which goes along with what we recommended in previous post. This step should be followed by a strong determination to keep the coach long enough to find his magic spell, even if it went wrong at the beginning. So far, Martino made all the right moves, but he will do mistakes as well, no question about that.

Yet, hiring a coach is just one break in rejuvenating the building, and it may prove being the least challenging mission. Maybe, the quest to find a center back that costs less cash than the load of a Titanic is a good indication about where world football is going and the challenges waiting ahead.

When a Bale costs over 100 M, maybe it is time to stop and have a second thought about how a team will be able to keep a competitive squad in such a crazy market. Make no mistake, it will only get worse, as you shouldn't let the FIFA fair play comic book fools you.  After all, it was a document blessed by the craziest spenders in world football or else it would have been a baby buried before sunrise. You can apply FFP authority on the Malagas of Europe but not on its Real Madrids or Barcelonas.

One of the main arguments FC Barcelona and Real Madrid had to reject reconsidering TV-Shares of La Liga is that it will make them unable to compete with the big guys of Europe. I’ll not go there, but I’d suggest that even with the current TV-shares the two clubs will gradually lose their competitive edge over rest of Europe gradually (Now imagine when they reconsider the shares so they get less – and they will). Here you have a picture: If Qatar can pass a deal of 800 M withPSG “to promote tourism in Qatar” and FFP don’t even bother, how much money can the Russian owner inject “legally” in Monaco/Chelsea/Arsenal/… to promote tourism in Russia? Put Russia on one hand and Qatar on the other regarding size and tourism potentials and calculate. What about a new Saudi owner for FC WHATEVER in whatever league? Here is the irony, if PSG can get 800 M from Qatar, how much should FC Barcelona get from –say- China to promote tourism there? Lets not talk about a club hundreds of millions in debt and still spend more hundreds of millions to make more signings.

Then you have the agents and agencies, their relations with clubs, scouts, and media outlets where it all keep on blowing players prices out of control like Zlatan’s ego. Even if the club can match that inflation, shouldn’t there be a moral question about spending that amount of money in a city where unemployment rate increases at the same rate of Messi’s goals record?

All that and more bring us to the main question: Is there another way to go? Can a club avoid getting that involved in this craziness?

I believe if there is a club that can pull themselves out of that cycle, it is Fc Barcelona. This FC Barcelona to be more specific. For a decade now, the club achieved unmatched success. Won everything that could be won, and broke every record. They even signed Alexander Hleb! Holy Falafel! Obviously, they’ve been there, and done it all.

It is suicidal to suggest such a scenario at a club like FC Barcelona, but no well… Maybe the obsession about winning everything by signing each and every player who has two legs and Dr. Evil as an agent should go a bit to the background for two or three years of transition from one sport foundation to another. 
Of course, if you can get an Agger for 15 M or so, not bad. Or else, save the money. The Squad available -as it is- is still one of the best in the world, and in every department regardless what demanding Barca fans complain about. So why not snapping this opportunity, counting on the players in hand, and turn our focus to middle and long term future of the club?

A new Model


The glory of the past few years made FC Barcelona the destination of the best young talents in the world. That is the main advantage the club canNOT lose. There should be a way for the club to structure legal arrangements for La Masia aiming to limit the leaking of talents from La Masia to other clubs. Hire exceptional lawyers for such an exceptional mission. It can be done (I read somewhere that Athletic Bilbao have a special arrangement concerning academy players, check it).

That’s from the legal perspective, but this is not enough. You need to develop the youth the best way possible. The conservative approach toward signing new players in the coming three years will no doubt offer more young talents a better chance to show their value for the first team through wellplanned contribution. It is too early to judge, but I like Martino’s work so far on this level. But the main –huge- step is no doubt having a new team on a level rests between the level of competition in Spanish Second division (With Barca B), and the demands of playing at FC Barcelona’s first team.

FCB Athletic


The estimated budget on transfers per season is at least 50 M (Barca boards always find an argument for the increase of transfer spending, over budget). If in three seasons FC Barcelona can save 100 M aside, they may have a good chance to buy a second division team in Portugal, or even England (Sponsors and secondary investors can provide additional funds where needed). Set Barca’s own foundation in that club (Lets call it FCB Athletic), hire coaches, etc… and combine it in the project of developing players for FC Barcelona first team.

The main objective is of course to get that team to first division and keep it there without the need to compete for titles. And by having that team, you perfect the path of young players from youth academy, to Barca B, to FCB Athletic, and ultimately to FC Barcelona. If you think this is impossible, check Udinese. They've done just that.

Having a team in Portugal:

Pros:


  1.           Similarities with Spain as a country and football characteristics.
  2.           Flexible regulations concerning players registration regulations
  3.           A country full of young talents, and with Barca’s club being there it will be easier to scout the country and get the best youth there.


Cons:

  1.           Commercial value of the club won’t improve a lot.
  2.           The club will not generate decent amount of money through Sponsorship, TV shares, etc… However it may cover that through players sales.


Having a team in England:

Pros:

  1.           Higher commercial value if it reaches EPL
  2.           Higher commercial return, TV-shares, etc…
  3.          Better promotion for FC Barcelona, as the EPL is promoted better and more viewed than the Portuguese league.
  4.           It is a league where sending players can add to the physical element of their development. That, combined with the techniques players learned at La Masia can create more complete players.
  5.           Better sales return on players the club doesn't need anymore as the mentioned players will be more tested and known in England where clubs invest more in transfers than in Portugal.


Cons:

  1.           Buying a club in England will be more expensive
  2.           There are some complications regarding signing players for English teams, especially if they are not from EU and yet to make their international presence (which will be the case for most Barca Youth)


Note I didn’t mention Germany (which will be the best option theoretically) because I am unaware of how the structure is there and whether such project is possible to implement there.

All in all, with such program, FC Barcelona can expect a stream of players knocking on first team doors, and more players who are not qualified for the first team but still can get the club good return in transfer market.
Having such structure will keep FC Barcelona the Mecca of youth ambitious talents of the world for being the best place to develop and learn enough to have a career in football (At FC Barcelona, or somewhere else later on).

I do believe this approach will cost the club less on the long run, and will pull it out of the crazy competition of buying players from the market. Not having the need to buy consistently save enough money to invest in buying any exceptional player whenever such rare opportunity occurs.

In the era of crazy market, every club will need to find another ways to feed the first team without being abused by the madness of prices and fierce competition with other clubs. The mentioned project might be a way, there could be other better ways. The most important thing is to think out of the box, and avoid having to be competitive, by being creative.

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