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THE NEW LOAN DEAL – The changing transfer strategy of FC Barcelona | El Centrocampista
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El Centrocampista

THE NEW LOAN DEAL – The changing transfer strategy of FC Barcelona

By Lee Roden

Following the mid-week sale of Bojan to Roma, which included an obligatory buyback clause  for Barça (designed to orchestrate the player’s return should he improve), another young talent is in the process of moving on to different shores.

Oriol Romeu is, for those of you not familiar with the player, a defensive midfielder from F.C Barcelona B. The player has shown a lot of promise, playing in a notoriously difficult position in the Barça system (the midfield “pivot” role) and is comparable in many ways to Sergio Busquets.

Oriol is not technically a product of La Masia in the straightforward way, but rather was purchased from Espanyol’s youth setup in 2004. He then moved up through the FC Barcelona youth system to the B team, where he played a vital part in their third place finish in 2011. His performances have reportedly caught the interest of Arsenal and Chelsea amongst others. Indeed, Pep Guardiola has lauded him in the past for his maturity and confidence. Unlike Jonathan Soriano (another player who was vital in FC Barcelona B’s campaign last season), he is still young, only 19 years old.

The new approach could reap big rewards for Guardiola.

If the Catalan media is to be believed, Oriol’s contract with Chelsea will bring Barça around 5 million Euros, and will feature the option to buy the player back after two years. If true, this can be seen as an excellent piece of business by FC Barcelona, for several reasons.

Firstly, the young player  would hopefully gain ample playing time he would not be granted in Catalunya, due to the domination of the defensive midfield role by Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano.  Secondly, The deal would also bring another 5 million Euros to Barça’s transfer fund, which might as well be re-named the “Cesc Fabregas donation fund”.

In a relative flurry of exits from the Camp Nou which is also expected to include Jeffren over the next few weeks, I cant help but think that Barça are participating in an elaborate version of the old “look down the back of the sofa” trick, in the hope of finding some extra money. Unlike me trying to pay my bills as a student however, Barça are trying to raise money for something that has become an obsession; Cesc Fabregas. If the Oriol deal is finalised as expected, and Jeffren moves on for a substantial sum of money, I would expect an improved bid for Fabregas soon after.

This now recurring trend of selling on young players with the aim to purchase them back is actually an ingenious move on behalf of the club. Funds are, as everyone knows, low, and young players are often struggling for first team football due to the strength of the starting eleven and high competition. Thus two problems are solved, with the added bonus of players gaining experience in other styles of football, in this case Italian and English, as a result.  Guardiola is notoriously obsessed with refining and re-defining Barça’s style, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being one such attempt to do so. Having a defensive midfielder hardened by the English game, and a striker capable of picking apart tight Italian defences is right up his street and follows his philosophy of evolution well.

This new type of selling also eliminates the necessity to loan players. Under Guardiola, loaning has, traditionally, been unsuccessful (see Henrique, Keirrison, Caceres and Hleb) and as a result a new solution needed to be found.

Selling players on to buy them back does have a risk however. In the case of Bojan, it is unlikely that Roma will either wish, or indeed have the money, to fork out 40 million Euros for him to prevent Barça buying him back. Chelsea on the other hand, have no lack of resources. If Oriol has two incredible seasons with the club, they would be foolish not to buy permanently and, with an aging squad, the incentive is obvious.

At the moment, the details of Oriol’s contract are not fully clear, and I imagine it may differ from Bojan’s in order to avoid Chelsea blocking Barça’s buyback easily.  In any case, selling young players with the option to buy them back is in vogue at F.C Barcelona, and is an unusually shrewd piece of business on behalf of the club.

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