In 2021, Barcelona tried everything to re-sign Lionel Messi. They shrunk his salary as much as possible. They asked other senior players to take pay cuts. They even suggested, misguidedly and incorrectly, that he could simply play for free.
Despite all of their attempts, legal and otherwise, Messi walked. He ended up, ill-advisedly, in the clutches of Paris Saint-Germain. Barca, meanwhile, went to work. They fired a flustered Ronald Koeman, gave youngsters a chance, and, uncharacteristically, worked within their financial means to steady a side that was tumbling down La Liga.
That, of course, was never going to be enough. Barcelona had a famously turbulent transfer window, with president Joan Laporta bending the concepts of club financing and sensible sponsorship to reassemble his squad.
But the brain trust who masterminded the signings of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde — the pieces that effectively made Barca a title-winning team this season — is falling apart. Sporting director Jordi Cruyff has left, while director of football Mateu Alemany has returned after handing in his resignation.
Former Portugal, Barca and Chelsea midfielder Deco, now a high-profile agent with little management experience, looks set to be appointed in Cruyff's place. Meanwhile, there are clear signs of disagreement as to who, exactly, the club need to sign this summer.
These recent incomings and outgoings, the constant movement in an already turbulent club, points towards a hectic few months. An institution is splitting right before a transfer window it has to get absolutely right.