Unless you’ve had your head in the sand over the last few days, you probably know that Barcelona were granted special dispensation to go out and sign a forward outside of the transfer window to temporarily halt their ‘crisis’ upfront, having lost both Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembélé? to long-term injuries.
So, who’d they bring in? None other than former Middlesbrough titan Martin Braithwaite – who sounds like a Downton Abbey character – on a four-year-deal with a £250m buyout clause.
Meanwhile, Braithwaite’s former club Leganes ?stand to get relegated without their main striker.
Yes, it’s all really weird.
It’s not the first oddball piece of recruitment from Barça in recent years, however. Far from it. As tribute, we’ve decided to build a starting XI of those who’ve been (very) fortunate to turn out alongside six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi.
Rü?tü Reçber – GK
First things first, Rü?tü Reçber was, actually, a fine player during his time in his native Turkey. He turned out for the national side 120 times over an 18-year spell, playing a hero’s role in the nation’s run to the Euro 2008 semi-finals.
Earning a move to Barcelona in 2003, Reçber wasn’t put in the matchday squad for his first clash since his ‘Spanish was not at an acceptable level’. Injury didn’t help either, and just as ?Messi had begun to burst onto the scene Reçber was loaned back to former club Fenerbahce after just four senior outings in another one of the club’s confusing transfers that failed to take off.
Douglas – RB
Another player who may as well have been signed anonymously, Barça saw it fit to spend €4m on the uncapped Brazilian in 2016, only for a poor debut to essentially cost him any future at Camp Nou.
Incidentally, that match was the first dropped points of Luis Enrique’s reign as manager, so that the natural course of action was to, well, drop Douglas. Loan stints at Benfica and Sivasspor followed, and his eight-match spell with La Blaugrana dissipated sooner than it began.
Dmytro Chygrynskiy – CB
A name mostly forgotten in Catalonia now is that of the Ukrainian defender. There’s good reason for it too, he cost a fortune and was almost entirely rubbish.
Moving from Shakhtar Donetsk for a (then) whopping €25m, the centre-back cut an invisible figure at Camp Nou, barely featuring and sort of drifting away as a hefty investment that when brought up in conversation results in a member of the Barça hierarchy coughing loudly to initiate a change of topic.
At least he got to play with Messi, though.
Thomas Vermaelen – CB
There is no disputing Thomas Vermaelen played well for ?Arsenal, that’s the reason Barcelona bought him in the first place. What they completely overlooked, however, was his abysmal injury record.
Four seasons and 53 appearances later he left the club, but not before managing to have zero impact whatsoever and costing roughly £300k per outing (not to mention wages). A signing that made no sense.
He’s in Japan now.
Oscar Lopez – LB
Forcing his way through the youth ranks and into the senior fold, everything went wrong for Oscar Lopez – he was dreadful at best and appalling at worst. Given his rise through the youth ranks, seeing him flop so considerably was odd.
Still, he just had time to see Messi’s glittering career lift off. Just a shame he couldn’t do likewise.
Fabio Rochemback – CM
Bizarre stat of the week (via ?Richard Jolly): “Since Samuel Eto’o left Barcelona in 2009, no former Real Madrid player has played for Barca or vice-versa. If / when he joins, Martin Braithwaite will become the third player to represent both Middlesbrough & Barcelona in that time.”
Can you name the other ones? Well, here’s the answer to one of those: Fabio Rochemback.
If you ask Messi who he was, the likely outcome would be a bemused, blank face. You wouldn’t blame him, the Brazilian was accused of having a terrible attitude throughout his spell there.
Mark van Bommel – CM
A talented, no-nonsense midfielder who achieved success at every club he played for? Absolutely. The archetypal Barcelona footballer who embodied the ethos and playing style the club are known for? Absolutely not.
Everything about his free transfer move in 2005 was just weird. He was never going to fit the mould and, one season later, moved on to ?Bayern Munich. Shock horror.
Ask a ?Tottenham fan how Paulinho’s spell in north London was and your first course of action is to cover the ears of any children in the area. To put it bluntly, he was s***e.
Which is why, after a spell in China with Guangzhou Evergrande, it made no sense whatsoever for Barça to splash €40m on him in 2017. Granted, he scored a career-high season total of nine goals, but then they went and loaned him back to Guangzhou Evergrande 12 months later. It just doesn’t make sense. Although, if we’ve learned anything, Barcelona generally don’t make sense.
Kevin-Prince Boateng – FW
There’s left-field, then there’s the loan signing of Kevin-Prince Boateng. It had an air of panic mode about it, as well as one of utter bemusement.
Plying his trade for Sassuolo, he was only there for six months before being snapped up Ernesto Valverde for what can only be described as s***s and giggles. Made no sense then, and four pointless appearances later, makes even less sense now.
Jeffren – FW?
Jeffren Suarez’s career history reads exactly as you might expect for a bang average, 32-year-old, four-cap Venezuela international forward.
He’s spent time at Sporting CP (five goals in 35 games), Valladolid (three goals in 47), Eupen (five in 49) and Grasshoppers (a respectable six in 35), while the closest he has ever come to winning a club trophy was as runner-up in the Taça de Portugal in 2012…
Oh but wait, he also started his career at Barcelona, where he played 30-odd times for first-team over a three-year period and (technically) won three league titles, the Champions League and Club World Cup under Pep Guardiola.
The once-promising youngster even scored in the famous 5-0 win over Real Madrid in 2010.
Martin Braithwaite – FW
You’ve read it all already. How his scoring rate is not fantastic, he couldn’t cut in the Championship and that the transfer is outrageously cruel on Leganes.
But no matter how you spin it, nothing about this deal makes sense. It’s sensational in all the wrong ways and how he’ll fare is anyone’s guess. This is desperation at its peak.
Just picture the world’s best player (possibly ever) alongside MARTIN BRAITHWAITE at Camp Nou. Nothing can prepare us for this, it’s….just so weird.
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