News Live Scores
Transfers

'Alemany is a killer' - How Barcelona's shrewd sporting director registered Ferran Torres

12:00 GMT+4 12/01/2022
Joan Laporta Dani Alves Mateu Alemany Barcelona 2021-22
The Blaugrana remain beset by financial problems, but Mateu Alemany is managing to strengthen Xavi's squad by reducing the size of the wage bill

Ferran Torres is poised to make his Barcelona debut on Wednesday night in the Spanish Super Cup Clasico against Real Madrid.

Beyond the sneers of those mocking Barcelona’s financial turmoil, there has been a lot of hard work done by Mateu Alemany to reach this point.

In the past week, the sporting director has managed to make the cuts needed to Barcelona’s out-of-control expenditure to get the new arrival from Manchester City registered.

Barcelona signed Torres for €55 million (£46m/$62m), knowing that they still needed to make moves to make him eligible to play, putting pressure on Alemany.

Torres’s recovery from injury and Covid-19 positive after his Camp Nou presentation gave Alemany one game’s grace, the 1-1 draw with Granada on Saturday.

The first move was shifting Philippe Coutinho on loan to Aston Villa for the rest of the season, with the Brazilian also taking a wage cut to make the move happen.

Xavi Hernandez had given the Brazilian a chance to prove his worth but quickly realised he could not rely on Coutinho, either in midfield or attack.

Luckily, Alemany found, in Aston Villa, an almost ideal new home for the club’s record signing, a failed extravagance of the Josep Maria Bartomeu era.

With the Jack Grealish hole not yet filled and his former Liverpool team-mate Steven Gerrard in charge, Coutinho headed to Villa Park to try to resurrect his career.

The deal, with the Premier League club paying around 65% of Coutinho’s salary and the rest being written off, paved most of the way for Torres’ registration.

There was still another deal to be done to push it over the line.

Speculation suggested an exit for Yusuf Demir, who cannot play for Barcelona again without triggering a €10m (£8.3m/$11.3m) compulsory purchase clause they have on the playmaker.

The Austrian will likely still leave, but Alemany worked with Samuel Umtiti to renew his contract until 2026, which provided Barcelona with sufficient leeway to register Torres.

The new deal for a player who has become an outcast at the club was viewed with great scepticism in some quarters, but it is an operation cleverly engineered by Alemany.

It spreads the money Barcelona owe Umtiti on his previous contract, which was scheduled to end in 2023, over the next four years instead.

According to reports, that manoeuvre gave them the margin they needed to not only register Torres but also put Nico Gonzalez and Gavi on first-team contracts.

These moves could be important because of La Liga’s rules about having seven first-team players on the pitch at all times.

Given the duo, registered with Barcelona B and Juvenil A respectively, are key players already, it will allow Xavi to use other youth players with more freedom.

It might also encourage Umtiti to take a loan away from Barcelona, now there is enough time for him to try and find fitness and minutes elsewhere before returning to try and win his place back.

Other clubs will be able to afford to loan him now too, with his prior salary too large for any side to gamble on.

A further positive effect is that Torres’s registration takes some of the power away from Ousmane Dembele’s agent Moussa Sissoko.

A new deal for the winger, thereby spreading out the amortisation of Dembele’s transfer cost, had been Barcelona’s preferred method of solving the Torres situation and it presented Sissoko with the opportunity to demand a higher salary.

Now, Barcelona can breathe easily and only accept a deal with Sissoko for Dembele on their terms, turning a high-pressure situation into a relaxed one.

“Alemany is a killer,” a source close to the Palma native told Marca when Laporta brought him on board in March 2021.

“Most people shake the tree and hope for the fruit to fall, but not him. He goes right up to it and takes the apple that he wants.”

The president and his sporting director have maintained a good relationship since Alemany sold Laporta Mallorca striker Samuel Eto’o back in 2004.

The former Mallorca president and Valencia sporting director works with a quiet coolness which is at odds with Laporta’s more bombastic showmanship. It means the messaging from both is often quite different, even as they share a stage together.

“Everything is possible,” Laporta said of Erling Haaland’s arrival at Camp Nou next summer, while Alemany is always more cautious and down to earth. However, his work to date has been stellar.

It was not easy to fill Ramon Planes’s shoes, given his good work with the low-cost purchases of Ronald Araujo and Pedri, but Alemany has been perhaps the best signing of the Laporta era to date.

After Lionel Messi’s painful, yet economically vital departure, he did well to get Antoine Griezmann’s wages off the books with a move late in the summer window to Atletico Madrid, while also offloading the unwanted Miralem Pjanic to Besiktas.

Emerson Royal’s sale to Tottenham looks a good decision, too, and Junior Firpo and Francisco Trincao have not been missed either.

Now, Alemany has delivered Torres, a player expressly requested by Xavi, who will be able to add the firepower Barcelona need to secure a top-four finish.

Furthermore, in tough times, he has given Laporta cause for optimism when it comes to the possible arrival of bigger names further down the road.