Sports

From Figo’s escape to Coutinho’s fiasco

BARCELONA – The transfer of Philippe Coutinho to Aston Villa, celebrated with relief in Barcelona, ​​closes, in the absence of knowing what will happen to Ousmane Dembélé, a time of waste at the Camp Nou.

Together with the French striker, the Brazilian footballer personalized what Emmanuel Petit and Marc Overmars were once, signed on the run and without sparing any expense by the then Barça president Joan Gaspart to urgently fill the void left by Luis Figo.

The result back then was not too different from now: an absolute fiasco and the verification of the erratic, if not dramatic, sports and economic policy of a Barcelona to which Neymar’s unforeseen flight to PSG in August 2017 caused the same soccer holocaust that occurred in 2000.

Joan Gaspart squandered in the blink of an eye the 60 million that Florentino Pérez paid him for taking Figo and with an interval of four months Josep María Bartomeu invested much more than the 220 million that PSG had paid him for Neymar… A repeated and even increased disaster.

Coutinho arrived at Barça endorsed by Luis Suárez, with whom he shared a dressing room at Liverpool, willing to follow the triumphant path of so many Brazilians who had dressed as a Barça player.

The figure of Neymar, the memory of Alves, and those of Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Ronaldo or Romario foreshadowed that Andrés Iniesta’s succession was assured with the Rio de Janeiro midfielder, regardless of his weak moral strength, which ended up dragging him to failure.

Not only did he come to succeed Iniesta, but even more, he had to fill Ney’s void, and at that point he was placed as part of a new trident alongside Lionel Messi and Suárez to which he never got used to.

Neither inside, nor midfielder nor winger, Coutinho’s performance was the illusion of a first half season in which he scored nine goals and served eight assists in 22 games to win the double (he could not play in the Champions League and watched the disaster on television of Rome) to the subsequent collapse.

Emmanuel Petit barely played 36 games during one season (2000-01) at Barça to be transferred to Chelsea for 5 million euros less than what he had cost while the performance of Overmars (news in recent months due to his scandalous dismissal as sports director of Ajax) never achieved at the Camp Nou what he ventured when he arrived from Arsenal.

Figo’s painful and unexpected flight to Real Madrid forced Barcelona into a kind of transit through the desert from which the Barça club did not recover until the arrival of Ronaldinho three years later, and although since Neymar’s departure at the Camp Nou They still continued, with the leadership of Messi, celebrating trophies, it was found that Bartomeu, the president who escaped Ney, lost any direction in his desire to turn Barça into an untouchable club.

Coutinho symbolizes like nobody else that disastrous, if not non-existent, sports policy that the Barça club has presided over in recent years and that has led to a current situation in which it is not capable of rivaling the greats of Europe when going to the market.

That he couldn’t first keep Messi, the jewel in the crown, nor has he been able to fight for the signing of Erling Haaland later.

Joan Laporta had to fight in 2003 to recover Barça from the disastrous inheritance that Joan Gaspart left him… And two decades later he is still facing an even more difficult one with the shadow of Josep Maria Bartomeu. Between Figo and Neymar some of the club’s darkest chapters were written at the beginning of the 21st century.

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