It’s clear to almost everyone with even a passing interest in both sports that basketball and football teams tend to operate in very different ways.
For one thing, NBA franchises have a budget cap whereas football clubs (at least outside of MLS) don’t. Meanwhile, football clubs cultivate youngsters in their own academies, a system alien to most professional American sports set-ups.
But come this summer, football clubs may need to look at the operations of the big sporting franchises across the Atlantic more closely with regards to how they conduct player recruitment – specifically trades.
As Juventus sporting director Fabio Paratici noted recently, the next transfer window will likely result in multiple NBA-style trades – a response to the looming financial crisis that will affect most teams around the world.
One ‘trade’ that has been mooted for several months is a blockbuster swap between Barcelona and Inter.
The Catalans have been chasing Argentinian forward Lautaro Martínez for quite some time and – with balancing the books a necessity at Camp Nou – have made it clear that they’re willing to exchange numerous players of their own to make the deal happen.
It appears as if every player from the Blaugrana have been linked with a move to Italy, including the likes of Ivan Rakiti? and Samuel Umtiti.
So, to land a coveted talent without paying a whole lot in cash, Barça have made it clear that they’re willing to give up any number of their own players to facilitate the deal. A situation basketball fans may be able to recognise from last year.
The Los Angeles Lakers faced a similar scenario just over a year ago, when New Orleans Pelican star Anthony Davis requested a trade in January 2019 with his first-choice preference being the purple-and-gold outfit.
Except – there was one major issue. The Pelicans weren’t prepared to accept any offer for their star forward at the time. Even an offer of six players and two first-round draft picks (essentially eight players) wasn’t enough to convince the Louisiana team to part ways with the 26-year-old.
The February trade deadline came and with both sides unable to reach a deal, the Lakers backed off, defeated in their pursuit. Davis stayed a Pelican; the Lakers continued with the same players who had appeared for them that year.
Yet the biggest takeaway was the fallout that hurt the LA-based team. Those able to see their names publicly dangled as trade bait, found it difficult to trust the club in having their best interests at heart.
The public nature of the negotiations attracted much criticism from those around the league, to which then Lakers-president Magic Johnson responded to in no-nonsense fashion. His words aimed to galvanise his team, in order to try make a run for the play-offs. Unfortunately for him, they fell on deaf ears.
All deals are … a lot of them are made in public.We didn’t make it in public, but that’s part of it. That’s what happens, man. We’ve got big boys here, and they bounce back. They’re fine.
– Then LA Lakers president Magic Johnson
And the team’s form suffered badly, as they would go on to lose 18 of their remaining 27 games in the season, finishing well behind the eighth-placed LA Clippers. Players seemingly didn’t have the heart to compete for the purple-and-gold anymore, disillusioned with their position on the team. The locker-room was fractured, and team chemistry was permanently damaged until the summer, where the Lakers finally got their man for six players (three were draft picks).
So, why bring up this saga from the NBA?
Well, it could formulate a similar PR disaster for the Blaugrana if their management continue to make their pursuit of Martínez public, which could derail the rest of their 2019/20 season.
At the time of writing, Barça are just two points ahead of rivals Real Madrid in the league. They still have 11 games to play, which includes some tough fixtures against the likes of Atlético Madrid and Sevilla.
With numerous reports linking a significant number of their players to Inter as makeweight to facilitate the deal for the Argentinian forward, it could seriously affect their motivation levels for the rest of the season. Do they really want to exert themselves fully, with the potential risk of injury, for a club who publicly appear willing to cut ties with them so quickly?
Indeed, Rakiti? has already publicly voiced discontent with how the team have treated him, while others seem less than happy to be linked with a move away.
Any newly created lack of motivation would certainly have a nosedive effect on the club’s performances over the last rounds of games, which could even jeopardise their La Liga title defence and Champions League pursuit at a delicate time.
But with football potentially stealing from the NBA’s playbook when it comes to recruitment, Barcelona would be well-advised to learn from the Lakers and tread lightly when it comes to just how they make their trades.