When news broke of the possible swap deal between Juventus and Barcelona on Sunday, the entire football world scratched its head in disbelief.
Miralem Pjanic, Mattia De Sciglio and €25m were all heading to Camp Nou, with Nelson Semedo making the move to Turin in return. The immediate thought that sprung to mind once all the variables and permutations had been processed was: what are they thinking?
Juve supporters must have been picking their jaws up off the floor when contemplating the prospect of handing over two assets and €25m for one player. On the face of it, it makes very illogical reading for the Turin faithful.
Pjanic has been the heartbeat of the Bianconeri midfield since his move from Roma in 2016, and the Bosnian has often been linked with big-money moves away from the Italian champions to Europe’s elite.
Although he has performed rather underwhelmingly under Maurizio Sarri this season, the 30-year-old could still command a high transfer fee, should Juventus decide he is no longer the future of their midfield. And even if Bianconeri fans are unsure whether Pjanic is worth holding onto anymore, there are no doubts that he deserves a better send off than being used as a makeweight in a bizarre swap deal.
One man who they will be less sorry to wave goodbye to, is De Sciglio. The Italian full-back is far from a regular in the Juventus team, and fitness issues combined with inconsistent performances have led to only eight league appearances this campaign.
The 27-year-old is a backup at best, and much like his time in Turin, his part in the swap deal is purely to make up the numbers. Add to these two departures a hefty sum of €25m, and you must be questioning if sporting director Fabio Paratici added a little too much sambuca to his espresso on Sunday morning.
Admittedly, in return Juve will be receiving an exciting defender in Semedo, but it’s a big risk to go all-in on a player who a fellow top club clearly does not deem worthy of their future plans. Food for thought.
But if I Bianconeri are the big losers from this agreement, that doesn’t necessarily make Barça the winners. Sometimes, there is no winner. Only losers.
? About to bin Semedo and somehow receive Pjanic, De Sciglio AND 25 MILLION
? Will use €20m to sign Sergiño Dest and bank the remaining €5m
?? Transfer window masterclass after masterclass
? King Barto strikes again! pic.twitter.com/kQZeQaZMWK
— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) May 17, 2020
Semedo is a dynamic, attacking full-back who has been the most consistent performer in that position since the irreplaceable Dani Alves left Camp Nou, and the Portuguese star has grown to become a familiar face in the Blaugrana backline.
But on technical ability and skill alone, he is not the heir to the Brazilian’s throne – nor will he be given the chance to prove himself, by the looks of things. The deal to allow him to leave reeks of opportunism. An offer too good to refuse has opened up, and without really considering the consequences, Barça have pulled the trigger on Semedo’s time in Catalonia.
Perhaps the hierarchy is aware that financially, the club may never receive a bid as lucrative as this for Semedo. That is, on paper, anyway. On the field, it’s a different story.
The Catalan giants have arrived at the point where a midfield rebuild is imperative, given that the ageing Ivan Rakitic and Arturo Vidal don’t quite fit the Barça bill anymore, and Sergio Busquets is approaching the back end of his career.
So Pjanic’s arrival may appear even more valuable, especially when factoring in the average contributions from Arthur and summer-signing Frenkie de Jong this year.
But if the Juve star is supposed to be of help, his signing may end up being more of a hindrance. De Jong was recruited from Ajax with the hope that he would be the heir to Andres Iniesta and Xavi’s throne all in one.
That prophecy hasn’t yet come to fruition, however. But that’s not to say that De Jong will never fulfil his destiny at Camp Nou. In fact, many Barça supporters believe the midfielder’s uninspiring debut season in La Liga is a rite of passage, and his time as a force at la Blaugrana’s heart will come.
But Pjanic’s signing would once again deny the Dutchman the chance to dictate the tempo of the game as he can so brilliantly do, forcing him to play a peripheral role for another frustrating season.
Apart from stunting De Jong’s progress, Barça will also have to splash the cash on a new right-back – and no, De Sciglio is nowhere near good enough to occupy that first-team spot himself. The Juve substitute will play the same role in Catalonia – benchwarmer – and all eyes will be on the club’s ability to replace the adequate Semedo.
Semedo’s current market value: €32.00m.
Pjanic’s current market value: €52.00m
Now Juventus is paying 25 million euros + Pjani? and De Sciglio in exchange for Semedo. Shouldn’t this signal something to the board that Semedo is important to us?
— BeksFCB (@Joshua_Ubeku) May 17, 2020
The modern game has changed the role of the full-back entirely, and so defensively solid, attacking defenders are particularly hard to come by nowadays. And if you do spot this mystical creature, you’re paying the big bucks to land him. Just ask Juve.
Ajax star Sergiño Dest is the wing-back being tipped to fill that role, but at only 19 years of age, that responsibility could prove to be far too great for a young boy who is still learning his trade; albeit at an impressive rate.
Pinning your hopes on a teenager with less than one full season under his belt at professional level is a gamble – and for a club the size of Barcelona, it could be the difference between trophies or second place, between success and utter disaster.
Nothing is decided for now, and it’s possible that numerous players will be thrown in as hypothetical differentials, as the duo try to hash out a deal.
In the end, both teams will come away from this negotiation thinking they possess the winning hand. But hindsight may eventually prove that walking away from the table was the best option for the two parties.