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Post-Neymar Barcelona: players restless over failure to sign new talent

Management focuses on signing Coutihno and Dembelé in bid to restore unity

Leo Messi during Barcelona's first game of the season, against Betis.
Leo Messi during Barcelona's first game of the season, against Betis.JOSEP LAGO / AFP

Despite its problems on and off the pitch, Barcelona FC is doing its best to project an image of unity.

Following a training session on Wednesday, the entire squad met for lunch in the upscale Gavá gated community, where some players have properties. Also present was coach Ernesto Valverde and his assistant, Jon Aspiazu. Unusually, nobody from management attended. The occasion would hardly be worthy of comment were it not that some of the team’s heavyweights, led by Messi, had met with Neymar just hours after Barcelona’s board had announced it was suing the Brazil international for breach of contract. Neymar then posted photographs of himself with his former teammates on his social networks. The team lunch has been interpreted as a call for unity in the wake of Neymar’s surprise exit, a move that has called into question the management’s signing strategy.

The club is now pinning its hopes on persuading Liverpool to part with Coutinho

A week before the summer transfer window closes, the club has stalled the arrival of Seri, despite having reached agreement with the Nice midfielder, creating a similar situation to what happened a few weeks ago with Real Sociedad defender Iñigo Martínez, citing “technical reasons.” Barcelona has been accused of taking a scatter-gun approach to signing new talent: Paris Saint German’s refusal to sell Verratti preceded the arrival of Paulinho at a cost of €40 million; now the team seems to be pulling out of the Seri deal, just when everything was set up. The club is now pinning its hopes on persuading Liverpool to part with Coutinho.

A Barcelona delegation is in Britain to try to convince Liverpool, but UK media says that the club would not even accept an offer of €150 million for the midfielder. If Coutinho stays in the Premier League, Barcelona will turn its sights of Borussia Dortmund striker Dembéle. Of the €60 to €80 million that Barcelona had set aside for signings before Neymar left, €72 million has been spent on Deulofeu, Semedo and Paulinho, and with August 31 just around the corner, that still leaves the €222 million PSG paid for Neymar. It remains to be seen who might still leave: Rafinha says he wants to go, while Samper will almost certainly be lent to Las Palmas.

Luis Suarez, Neymar, and Lionel Messi

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Luis Suarez, Neymar, and Lionel Messi

Meanwhile, Barcelona’s board says everything is under control and is playing down the hullabaloo in the Spanish media over the photographs published on social media by Messi, Piqué and other players with Neymar. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has made it clear he has no intention of standing down, despite the unease created by the possibility of a vote of no confidence by supporters. He was due to meet with Messi in Monaco on Thursday for the Champions League draw and the announcement of the Player of the Year. The hope is that Bartomeu will be able to convince Messi to extend his contract, as was announced on July 5, a move that would help heal the rift between players and management, while fighting the mood of crisis that hangs over the Camp Nou. But the real issue that must be resolved is just who Barcelona is going to sign.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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