Liverpool FC: Christmas Crack Me Up Challenge
After having landed back in Barcelona, Ernesto Valverde can take stock of the experience of the US Tour, and finally begin training with all of his players with a view to almost everyone being fit for the Spanish Super Cup final against Sevilla on August 12.
The party line has been that he and his staff have been very happy with how things have gone, but that flies in the face of reality.
Injuries to Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez, at least one of whom would’ve left in this window… no wins in normal time in all three matches…
Having sold Lucas Digne to Everton, Valverde suggested thereafter that, rather than buy someone else, the Frenchman’s replacement would come from Barca B.
Marc Cucurella seemed the obvious candidate, but along with a couple of his young defensive colleagues, the tour has done him more harm than good.
So, Valverde’s happy? Not buying it.
One youngster who did shine brightly throughout was Riqui Puig. Promoted from the U19 A squad last season into the B team, the 18-year-old wasn’t fazed at all and, in fact, was one of the best players on the pitch against Milan.
His chance will come of course, whereas new signings Malcom and Arturo Vidal will expect to play from the first whistle of the season.
The latter is a replacement for Paulinho, but at 31 years of age, he clearly isn’t one for the future. What he does offer Barca is a warrior like spirit and an incredible work ethic and desire to win.
Off-field misdemeanours aside, he may well complement what’s already at the club, but Vidal certainly isn’t a player with Barcelona DNA. Valverde was keen to stress the positives of the move, saying that players with different characteristics enhance the whole and should be embraced accordingly.
It was easy to cite the example of Paulinho, given that the Brazilian initially wasn’t wanted by the fan base. Supporters soon changed their tune once the marauding midfielder got to work and the coach is clearly hoping the same applies with Vidal.
Malcom was snatched from Roma’s grasp at the 11th hour. Supposedly about to board a plane to Italy to sign his contract, the Brazilian was stopped from doing so and instead signed for the Blaugrana the next day.
It left a sour taste in Roma’s mouth, more so when the two faced each other in the US – where Malcom, predictably, scored.
Questions have also been asked about his hire.
Whilst Ousmane Dembele hasn’t been a roaring success since his transfer last summer, he began to flourish towards the end of last season, hinting at what’s to come. If Malcom doesn’t replace the Frenchman, where does Valverde see him?
There doesn’t seem to be too much thought put into the move ie whether Barca actually needed him, where is he going to play and at whose expense… ?
Remember, it’s less than a week until the club really get down to business and only 11 days until the start of the La Liga season.
Clearly, there’s still work to be done behind the scenes to ensure the league and cup winners begin their defence of both trophies in the best possible way.