Everton has had a curious relationship with Barcelona in recent years. We bought Gerard Deulofeu from them before they initiated a buyback pointlessly disrupting his career. We bought Lucas Digne and gave him the opportunity to show his class going forward that he never had at Barcelona - proving he’s one of the best left backs in the Premier League. We also bought Andre Gomes and turned him into the centerpiece of our midfield. We even hired one of their legends as our manager, but the less said about Ronald Koeman at this point, the better.
In recent years Everton has been a better environment for players than Barcelona in almost every instance. Because of this, beyond our biases towards Everton as a club and our are awareness of its shortcomings, it still appears that Richarlison made a great decision for his career when he stuck with the Everton project in January rather than go to what has surpassed Manchester United as the worst run super club on the planet.
In comments to Canal Pilhado that you can read in English here, Richarlison talked about how he feared what would happen to his career if he went to Barcelona, largely because of what had happened to other Brazilian players at the club in recent years:
At the time, I think [Luis] Suarez was still injured, they needed a striker there But that’s what I said, things didn’t go forward, I was also a little moved, but that’s part of football. I’m happy here at Everton and that’s what I did. I think I made the right decision.
It was in the middle of the league. I was doing well at Everton, I was in all the call ups from Tite. And like it or not it weighed a bit too, because I saw many Brazilians going to Barcelona and not settling. I saw Malcom going there and he only played a few games and then moved to Zenit. Coutinho, he moved to Bayern. So it weighs, like it or not.
We’re playing well here, we’re going to the national team and suddenly you go to a club - maybe you don’t get an adequate adaptation, you go to the bench, sometimes you don’t go to a game, it weighs. So I think, as I said, I made the right decision.
The club of Ronaldinho, Alves, and for a time the original Ronaldo has now become a place where young Brazilian stars are nervous to go because their countrymen have trouble settling there.
The dysfunction level in recent years in Catalunya appears to have peaked with the strange recent transfer swap of Miralem Pjanic and Arthur Melo with Italian giants Juventus. Clearly a financial move more than strategic, here is what ESPN’s Spanish football writer Sid Lowe had to say about what was happening at the Nou Camp.
However good it gets, this doesn’t stop being another expression of failure, still symbolic of a system malfunction. It’s not so much the departure of Arthur in itself that saddens some fans, and it’s certainly not the arrival of Pjanic; it’s what it all means. What it reveals, again. Imagine that this ends up being the right move — and it might — it’s still for the wrong reasons.
The accountancy is more creative than the midfielders are. For Barcelona, that is particularly important. More to the point, for Barcelona’s board it is. Sam Marsden and Moi Llorens have explained on these pages how Barcelona already needed to raise €124m in sales this season, which put them in the position of needing to find around €60m before July 1. And that was before the effects of the pandemic were calculated. If they didn’t, the board of directors would find themselves personally liable for 15% of the loss, as per the 1990 law that governed club structures. That is why Barcelona were so desperate to get a deal done, why a seemingly strange swap deal happened.
That Barcelona found themselves in that position was concerning enough. How they got there, and what it means, is deeply telling and more deeply worrying, even allowing for the unexpected hit from the coronavirus pandemic for which they are of course blameless. It is what it says about their ability to build a squad and construct a team, what it says about the structure, the whole institution. It is that another succession is broken, another transfer torn up, another plan in pieces. The picture is bigger than Pjanic.
For all the issues that Everton have had in recent years with changes in football leadership, the club’s status where they have to play their best players at every opportunity provides a better platform for footballers on the verge of making it to stardom. Though Barcelona would give them a brighter spotlight and more vaunted stage to ply their trade at, they would also have to share that with a number of other world-class players.
When you consider together the improvement multiple players have made in their careers at Everton after leaving Barca and also the thinking of one of our own players in turning down the Catalan club, you begin to realize that despite how frustrating things can be at Everton year in and year out we still provide a solid opportunity for players to develop, even if the Toffees remain a ‘stepping stone club’ for now. This combined with having a more established manager such as Carlo Ancelotti at the helm should in the long term bode well for our recruitment.
If you were in any doubt about Ancelotti’s pulling power and how he remains relevant even now, here’s what the agent of Everton’s recent youth signing Niels Nkounkou had to say about why the teenager joined the club - here’s Yvan Le Mee to The Athletic -
“Niels and Carlo had a direct communication and Carlo was very convincing. Ancelotti is one of the greatest coaches in the world, so it was really positive for Niels.”
As depressing as the current times feels like for Everton, the future will get better for us.