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Was the ineffectiveness of Enrique in the transfer market the reason for Barcelona’s recent defeat to Roma in the Champions League?

FC Barcelona v Malaga CF - La Liga
FC Barcelona v Malaga CF – La Liga

In the wake of the recent defeat to Roma, it is relevant to look into the factors that caused Barcelona’s downfall in the Champions League. As many pointed out, fatigue, lack of squad rotation and a mediocre bench are some of the many reasons that resulted in their loss at Stadio Olimpico.

Was Ernesto Valverde alone to blame for that? Should Enrique be taking a share of the blame for his inefficiency in the transfer market in his last two seasons?

When Luis Enrique took charge of Barcelona in 2014, he had the difficult job of reviving and rebuilding the aging Catalans. Although, in his last two seasons with the Catalans, the players he signed didn’t live up to the expectations.

Here are five signings made by Enrique who didn’t actually live up to the initial hype. Considering their ages, they were presumed to strengthen the Catalan side in the long run but ended up doing the opposite.

#5 Aleix Vidal

FC Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves - La Liga
FC Barcelona v Deportivo Alaves – La Liga

By the end of 2014-15 season, Dani Alves started showing the signs of decline. He was no more the old flying wing back. So Enrique decided to bring in a quality back up who would eventually replace Alves at right back.

Vidal was in the form of his career then, starting 22 games for Sevilla in La Liga that season. He seemed like a safe bet considering his experience in La Liga and was signed for €17m.

He started well for Barcelona, but an injury prevented him from keeping up the tempo. Alves was sold to Juventus the next season and the right back position was up for grabs. But Vidal stumbled and faltered. His lack of pace and decision making put Barca in tight situations so often.

Eventually, he lost his place to the make-shift right back Sergi Roberto and could manage only 15 appearances in 3 seasons with the Catalans. The arrival of Nelson Semedo in the summer further restricted the opportunities for Vidal. It looks increasingly probable that he’ll leave Barca by next season.

#4 Denis Suarez

FC Barcelona v Sampdoria: Joan Gamper Trophy
FC Barcelona v Sampdoria: Joan Gamper Trophy

Following his admirable performance for Villareal in the 2015-16 season, Denis Suarez was bought back by Barcelona by activating a buyout clause. He started 12 La Liga matches for Barcelona in the subsequent season but failed to impress the crowd and the manager.

After Valverde’s arrival, he could manage only three League starts and was largely used as a substitute in the dying minutes of the matches. Coutinho’s arrival in January has further reduced his chances of making it into the first eleven. With Napoli expressing their interest in the midfielder, he is most likely to leave Camp Nou by the end of the season.

#3 Lucas Digne

FC Barcelona v CD Leganes - La Liga
FC Barcelona v CD Leganes – La Liga

The young French left-back was acquired from PSG for a sum of €16.5m. He was considered a young alternative for Jordi Alba at the left wing. By that time, he had already managed 32 Serie A starts for Roma in the 2015-16 season while playing for them on loan from his parent club.

On his arrival, Digne looked like a hot prospect and played like one. With his strength and energy, it felt like he was going to give Alba a fight for the left back position. But he couldn’t live up to his potential. Apart from a string of starts following Alba’s injury, he barely made it to the first eleven.

Currently 24, Lucas Digne would presumably go down the pecking order as Valverde is looking for a quality left back who can share the workload with Alba. While the experiment still has time to bear fruit, the French leftback’s run at the Nou Camp looks progressively tougher by the day, and he should seek a move elsewhere to find more minutes given the low probability of him getting quality minutes.

#2 Paco Alcacer

FC Barcelona v Malaga CF - La Liga
FC Barcelona v Malaga CF – La Liga

He was signed as a back up for the Latin American trio for a hefty sum of €30m from Valencia in 2016. The young Spaniard proved his worth by scoring 13 goals in La Liga in his final season for Valencia. He seemed like a sensible signing.

But he couldn’t make it regularly into the first eleven for Barcelona. A haul of 14 goals in around two seasons are clearly not great statistics for a striker. When given the chance to play, he has managed to get on the score sheet at times, but he does not possess enough quality to break into the playing eleven regularly.

He has demonstrate a shortfall in consistency, as well as in the ability to perform in games with higher stakes. Considering the money spent, he has a huge disappointment for Barcelona.

#1 Andre Gomes

Granada CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga
Granada CF v FC Barcelona – La Liga

You might be sympathizing with him after the interview he gave to the magazine Panenka. He confessed he was struggling to deal with the criticism of the supporters. After that interview, the fans have been giving him a hero’s welcome whenever he comes to the pitch. However, that doesn’t seem to boost his performance.

Signed from Valencia for a €35m fee, the young Portuguese was expected to cement his place in the Catalan midfield. Those who had watched him play for Valencia would be convinced of his talents.

In his two seasons thus far at the club, he has looked devoid of confidence and has often underperformed in high-leverage moments. He seems to be added nothing new to the Barcelona side.

In his first season, there was a general feeling that given time, he would show improvements. But all in all over the length of his spell, he is provably not good enough to be a regular starter for Barcelona.

Now that he has the fans behind him, he should at least try hard and repay them by replicating the football he played at Valencia. If not, he will be the first one to get offloaded by Valverde at the end of this season.

 

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