David Villa's sale exposes Barcelona's flawed transfer policy

After David Villa moved to Atletico Madrid for a cut-price deal, Brendon Netto takes a look at Barcelona's shortcomings in the transfer market.
 Brendon Netto
 COMMENT | Spain
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David Villa’s quest this summer for regular first team football was common knowledge among the football fraternity but nobody envisaged it culminating at Atletico Madrid. The Barcelona man was linked with a host of Premier League clubs and just when a move to Tottenham Hotspur seemed imminent, news of a deal with Diego Simeone’s side broke and had seasoned reporters scratching their heads.

The manner in which Atletico blind-sided other suitors to land the striker was surprising enough but the fact that they only parted with €5.1 million in the process is truly astounding. Considering that they sold Radamel Falcao to AS Monaco this summer for a fee in the region of €60 million, it’s safe to say they’ve already enjoyed a phenomenal bit of business during this transfer window.

Villa seemed certain to rake in at least €10-12 million for the Catalans so the said fee is an absolute steal, there’s no escaping that fact. Granted he is 31 now and only played a bit part role last season but he still has plenty to offer. The fact that Christopher Samba just went back to Anzhi Makhachkala from Queens Park Rangers for €14.5 million really puts things into perspective.

Daylight robbery| Atletico secured one of the bargains of the summer

He hit the ground running in his debut season when he notched up 23 goals and scored a classy goal in the Champions League final against Manchester United among so many other vital contributions. However, a broken leg thereafter saw his career at the Camp Nou take a turn for the worst.

When he returned from an eight month long lay-off, he was never afforded the time on the pitch he needed to find his feet again. With so many options in attack and the team chasing records, Villa only made substitute appearances late in games which were far from the game time he required.

Relegating one of the finest strikers in the world to a mere squad player was far from ideal but with the wealth of attacking talent at Barcelona’s disposal, you can see why he was neglected. However, selling a 31 year old elite striker for €5 million three years after shelling out €40 million for his purchase is a move that certainly warrants scrutiny.

Of course, there’s no denying the logic in Villa’s move to Atletico. From Barcelona’s perspective, they’ve got a high-earner who is surplus to requirements off their payroll. Meanwhile, Atletico gained a quality striker who may not be in the same mould of Falcao but still capable of replacing him in the goal-scoring department.

As for the player himself, Neymar’s arrival only put him further down the pecking order. At Atletico, he’s guaranteed first team football and can finally return to playing down the middle instead of on the flanks. He should be able to get into more goal-scoring positions as the focal point in their attack not to mention the added benefit of moving to a club where he will continue to enjoy Champions League football.

Question marks over Barcelona's transfer policy

So in that regard, the move makes perfect sense but again, the transfer fee and the subsequent €35 million loss Barcelona incurred doesn’t put their transfer policy in the best light. Ironically, Barcelona have regularly been praised for promoting from within instead of splurging in the transfer market but a quick look at their transactions over the past five years would suggest that they probably aren’t the most shrewd.

In 2007, the Catalans signed Thierry Henry from Arsenal at a handsome price of €24 million. Although the

Player Year Bought Fee Year Sold Fee Loss
Eidur Gudjohnsen 2006 €12m 2009 €2m €10m
Thierry Henry 2007 €24m 2010 Free €24m
Alexander Hleb 2008 €17m 2009 €2m €15m
Seydou Keita 2008 €14m 2012 Free €14m
Gabriel Milito 2008 €20m 2011 Free €20m
Zlatan Ibrahimovic 2009 €69.5m 2011 €24m €45.5m
David Villa 2010 €40m 2013 €5.1 €34.9m

Frenchman was fairly prolific in his first two seasons, he was unable to recreate his phenomenal goal-scoring form for Arsenal from the flanks.

In his third season at the Camp Nou, Pedro was preferred over him and he managed only 4 goals in 32 appearances after which he was shipped off to New York Red Bulls on a free transfer. For an Arsenal legend who scored 45 goals in 89 appearances in the two seasons preceding that, surely he could have commanded a respectable transfer fee even if he had only a year left on his contract.

Barcelona raided Arsenal again in 2008 for Alexander Hleb at a fee of €17 million. The midfielder barely made his presence known before he was sold off for just €2 million the following season. However, the transactions involving Zlatan Ibrahimovic, blows everything else out of the water.

The Swede was signed from Inter Milan in 2009 for a staggering €69.5 million in value where €46 million was supplemented by the exchange of Samuel Eto’o. After a season of living in Lionel Messi’s shadow, which is quite ironic considering the contrasting frames of the two players, Ibrahimovic was loaned to AC Milan who bought him the following season for just €24 million.

Ibrahimovic's Messi-complex dealt a heavy blow to the Catalans

Barcelona effectively took a hit of €45.5 million for their Swedish venture. For all the trophies Pep Guardiola won during his four years in-charge, the Ibrahimovic fiasco will always remain a blemish in an otherwise immaculate tenure. The situation with Villa incurred a loss not much smaller than that.

Yes, over the years the likes of Real Madrid have comfortably exceeded Barcelona’s expenditure in the transfer market but even they value their assets. Take Kaka’s situation for example, Madrid are keen to move him along and have tried to do so a couple of times but they refuse to settle on a lowly price after they spent over €60 million to recruit him.

For all the level-headed and admirable techniques in running a club that Barcelona advocate, perhaps their work in the transfer market is something that can be improved on. After all, David Villa is Spain’s all-time leading goal-scorer with ability to rival the best strikers in the world, not some washed-up has-been.

Was Villa sold too cheap? Send in your thoughts in the comments below or discuss with the writer on Twitter @BrendonNetto.

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