Why Barcelona’s January Was Always Going to Be Weird – Memphis, Kessie, Prestianni, and More

Memphis Depay. Yannick Carrasco. Joaquin Correa. Franck Kessie. Marcelo Brozovic. Gianluca Prestianni. Kendry Paez.

That’s a rather odd group of seven names; names that indicate just how weird this transfer window was always going to be for FC Barcelona.

Xavi knew this months ago and said that he wanted keep the squad the way it was. Mateu Alemany and Jordi Cruyff also tried to keep expectations low for any new faces arriving in January. Joan Laporta has warned that while the club does have a 1:1 right now, transfers over the summer may become even more difficult when the La Liga limitations and the club continuing to deal with years of mismanagement push their transfer policy back to 4:1 (you spend a euro, you have to clear four euros from the books).

Within those parameters and with the insane financial disparities that now exist between the Premier League and everybody else, Culers are pretty reasonable about what Barcelona can and cannot do this transfer window. While it is a topic for another time, Barcelona does have a bit of an excuse as to how difficult it is to the compete with EPL budgets. Even when Barça fix their financial situation, attracting talent isn’t going to get any easier.

That may also be the reason why the Premier League isn’t involved in any transfer rumors this window. Memphis Depay was originally thought to be on his way to Inter Milan, potentially for winger Joaquin Correa, but Memphis’ team shot down that idea. From a Barça perspective, Correa does fit more of a need as a natural wide left winger, but he only has three goals this season and is struggling for form in Italy. Even though Memphis’ time for the Blaugrana is limited, that’s still a downgrade.

That was just a rumor of course, but Memphis’ desire to move to Atlético Madrid was not. It appears that any notion that Barcelona could get Yannick Carrasco in return was a bit hopeful. Carrasco would have also fit a need, but swaps rarely happen because matching wages and complying with financial limitations in La Liga is easier said than done.

This Memphis deal seems to be the definition of the domino effect. Last summer, Memphis agreed to come to Barcelona on a free transfer and fit himself in their wage structure. He also signed a two-year deal, which allowed the club more flexibility in case it didn’t work out. In a sense, he was betting on himself while giving Barça an out. The downside for the club is of course that any of those players on smaller deals with expiring contracts can choose to leave for free and the club gets nothing for them in return. By signing those smaller contracts over the last few seasons, they have limited the possibility of a big transfer fee. So the leverage shifted to Memphis, and while Barça isn’t happy about him moving to another La Liga side, it’s clear that they wanted to get something from the deal rather than lose him for free in the summer. In addition, with a squad as flawed as Barça’s and with the pressure on Xavi being what it is to win another major trophy following the Spanish Super Cup, an unhappy player in the dressing room may have been a poison pill for the manager.

Meanwhile, unlike Memphis, Franck Kessie appears to want to stick around the Camp Nou and a deal with Inter Milan is unlikely. The less likely part of the rumors is that Marcelo Brozovic, the 30-year-old defensive midfielder who was injured during the Champions League meeting, would move the other way. Brozovic isn’t the kind of player that’s available on the transfer market – an in-his-prime CDM who can play as a single pivot and would give Barça around 2+ years to find the “next” successor to Busquets/defensive midfield specialist. While this rumor created plenty of conversation, Kessie wanting to stay and the ‘too good to be true’ nature of Brozovic makes that deal highly unlikely.

Other rumors surrounding 15-year-old Ecuadorian attacking midfielder Kendry Paez, who plays for Independiente del Valle’s U-20s, and 16-year-old Argentine winger Gianluca Prestianni, who plays for Vélez II, let you know just how quiet things are on the transfer front. Unless there is a still unknown passport, both players would stay in their native countries until they turn 18. Similar to Endrick, who signed for Real Madrid, Barça could be trying to pay low release clauses now and attempting to invest in a star of the future. That said, Madrid are investing talents that cost €30-60, while both of these teenagers seem available for €15 or less. It’s also become Madrid’s business model – to spend big on young talents, hitting on some and missing on others, while neglecting their own academy. Barcelona in 2023 (due also to financial constraints) is just about the opposite – hope for players in your academy or get a steal for a low figure (Araujo and Pedri), and don’t get into bidding wars for tomorrow’s stars.

Other than Memphis and Kessie, there was a rumor about Eric Garcia being shopped, but one would assume that would happen in the summer due to his low wages and length of his contract.

Outside of the first team, the only two names in the headlines are Álvaro Sanz, the 21-year-old midfielder who is winding down his contract and will likely be moving to Mirandés in the next few days, and Victor Barberà, who is lighting up the scoresheet for the U-19s and Barça Atlétic. But it seems he is set to get a big offer when his contract expires in the summer.

While it was always expected that Sanz would seek first team football elsewhere, Barberà’s remarkable goalscoring in the UEFA Youth League and the Spanish 3rd Division – 13 goals in 19 combined games – makes his rise from CF Damm recruit in 2020 to what he is now that much more improbable. He’s exceeded Barça’s expectations to the point where he played himself out of a Barcelona contract. Any renewal they offer will likely be much lower than he will get from a club like Club Brugge, who are already rumored to be in the race for him. Like Memphis, his expiring contract means that the club can’t do much about it.

The only silver lining from losing Barberà for free however is that Xavi may have already selected the next academy forward he wants to push. Xavi may see 18-year-old Ángel Alarcón, who currently plays as a winger for the U-19s, as a future centre-forward, and he could come in at times to replace the Memphis spot on the Barça bench when they are in need of another attacker.

A weird January so far, but one that should have been expected based on the club’s current financial situatation.