All over the world, a group of men and women are being delicately placed into boxes of mothballs, frozen in Carbonite and put into stasis chambers. Those unfortunate souls make up Barcelona’s scouting department, who are now surplus to requirements seeing as all transfer activity at the Catalan club has now ceased until January 2016.
This impending punishment saw Barça doing the football equivalent of heading off to Costco, just without the hassle of having to find a home for 700 bog rolls and 100 tubes of toothpaste. Twenty four separate bits of transfer activity kept them busy, and fairly happy – or so said sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta at a press conference on Tuesday. “We are back to being competitive at a very high level,” beamed the bearded former goalkeeper.
Seven players were brought in, four were sold – including poor, forgotten Bojan Krkic for just £1.5 million and the hats-in-the-air news that Alex Song had been palmed off to West Ham. Aside from agents and the aforementioned scouts affiliated to the team, the biggest losers of all will be the writers of local papers Sport and Mundo Deportivo, who have lost the staple news fodder of rampant transfer speculation. Stories on a Brazilian fancy forward joining in 16 months don’t really get the juices flowing in the morning.
Sao Paulo right-back Douglas was Barca's final signing before the ban
That is not an issue affecting Marca and AS, who can revel in forecasting improbable transfers of the future as well as pulling apart those of the past. The job of the local media is being made very easy at the moment, with Cristiano Ronaldo having stated on Monday he would not have made the same decisions over the players in and out of the Santiago Bernabéu this summer. Naturally this caused a bit of a kerfuffle, with Sergio Ramos wading in while on Spain duty by observing that “we belong to a club and we have to abide by the rules”.
While the communication department was trying to stamp out fires like a tap dancer encircled by flaming cockroaches, news on the pitch was pretty dire too with Sami Khedira ruled out of action for six weeks with a torn muscle. This leaves the club without its only defensive midfielder, unless Luka Modric is dressed up like Wolf from Gladiators and given a padded fighting stick.
At least when La Liga returns in a week-and-a-half, it will only be lowly Atlético Madrid coming to town, a team that now appears to be able to attack on about five different fronts judging by Diego Simeone’s canny recruitment this summer.
Until that defeat at the Bernabéu, the fun game of he-says, she-says will be all the rage in the Spanish capital as Madrid fans contemplate a squad that looks as balanced as a rowing boat stuffed with squirrels.