Barça sign “230-year-old” defender in potentially disastrous deal

FourFourTwo's Spanish football expert Tim Stannard assesses Barcelona's big summer signing...

And there you have it. A fine lesson in being very careful what you wish for. Barcelona had not signed a centre-back for five years, but the Catalan club went and ended that dry spell on Wednesday by bringing in Valencia international Jeremy Mathieu.

Of course, La Liga Loca is being a tad literal with the term ‘international’. The ginger stopper has turned out twice for his country, probably back in the last century, so old is the doddery Mathieu.

When LLL says “bringing” in, it means “massively over-paying for,” with the Frenchman arriving for a fee of €20 million, some €16 million more than Tata Martino was reportedly prepared to fork out last summer in a deal that fell through on the grounds that Barça thought Valencia were having a laugh.

"A poll in Mundo Deportivo had 89% voting that Mathieu was far too pricey for his ability. The other 11% were probably just happy someone who may be able to clear a corner has been signed..."

But desperate times call for desperate measures at Camp Nou, and a footballer who turns 31 in October has signed up for four years and probably can't believe his luck. That opinion may well change on Thursday at the defender’s presentation, which may not exactly witness the level of Catalan adoration that Neymar found a year ago. Indeed, one of LLL's Barcelona-based contacts revealed a joke going around was that the doors of the Camp Nou will be opened for the unveling of Mathieu - not to let the fans in, but to let the workers out.

One wag updated the footballer’s Wikipedia page to reflect the fact that he was 230 years old, while a poll in Mundo Deportivo had 89% voting that Mathieu was far too pricey for his ability.

The other 11% were probably just happy that someone who may be able to clear a corner has been signed, and boo-sucks to the price. Or they were Real Madrid fans, more likely. 

This general dismay at the sum deposited for the defender is matched in the opinion pages of Sport, which called for the firing of whoever was behind it. “The managing of Mathieu’s signing has been a disaster,” fumes Lluís Mascaró, “bad enough to bring about the firing of the sporting director, or whoever was responsible.”

The giant leap that the club took in signing a centre-back after years of diminutive forwards is certainly a tick in Barcelona’s book. And it’s not that Mathieu is a bad player. The Frenchman is perfectly fine. €4 million fine in fact, but not a figure Barça want to see plodding around the pitch at the age of 35 on a huge contract.

The presentation on Thursday evening could become a pre-season referendum for club president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who is currently busy in court dealing with the aftermath of the very messy Neymar transfer. A low turnout in the stadium may show a level of disinterest. However, a large, feisty turnout unhappy at the the way the club president is running the show could be very possible indeed.

In the middle of it will be poor Mathieu, who won’t know whether to laugh at a huge move to Barca or cry over the fact 89% of the Camp Nou collective consider him to be a centuries old geriatric. Fun times are ahead.

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