The Problem of Football Clubs Seeing Athletes as Assets

if the sale From Emerson Royal to Tottenham it was a bit strange – he had officially joined Barcelona only a month ago – the departure of Antoine Griezmann that would hurt the most: the sheer humiliation of letting a player who was signed with great pomp and ceremony two years ago come back, originally borrowedto Atlético Madrid.

Still, he couldn’t help it: Barcelona’s most pressing need was to save money first, then raise money, and at the end of the transfer window, that’s exactly what he had done. Lionel Messi is gone; Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto agreed on reduced terms; Griezmann is off the payroll. Next summer, when his move to Atletico becomes permanent, Barcelona will have made $115 million in sales.

What Barcelona couldn’t do, of course, was sell the players they were supposed to sell the most: big winners, dwindling stars, reminders of the crazy years. Philippe Coutinho, Miralem Pjanic and Samuel Umtiti are still there. Barcelona doesn’t have much in common with Real Madrid, but perhaps there are some things in common here.

We’ll never know if Real’s approach (or approaches) to luring Kylian Mbappé this summer is real, not exactly: Real Madrid insists it is, Paris St.-Germain is adamant it isn’t. Either way, the club has spent the last few seasons trying to raise the necessary funds to sign the 22-year-old Mbappé: those funds would either be used as a transfer fee or a golden handshake.

To do this, he would want big names like Gareth Bale and Isco to be sold for money to match. But no one came forward and instead Real Madrid had to monetize a team of promising youngsters: Achraf Hakimi and Sergio Reguilón and Óscar Rodríguez last season and Martin Odegaard this summer.

The policy worked, of course, but it raises the inevitable question: How bright would Real Madrid’s future be if it could add Mbappé to a promising young roster, how balanced would his side be, rather than having to sell most of these players to finance his eventual arrival? ?

The same question awaits Barcelona. Emerson may not have made Barcelona great again, like Junior Firpo and Carles Aleña and Carles Pérez and Arthur before him, but he could have at least helped revive an aging roster. Instead, they were all sold as-is to cover the cost of past mistakes. Barcelona’s financial situation is now better than a month ago. Still, the price is high: He had to mortgage it tomorrow to pay for it yesterday.

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