West Ham United will be feeling how Barcelona felt when they went to replace Neymar

Vatsal Gupta
By Vatsal Gupta
7 Min Read

At first glance, West Ham United and Barcelona wouldn’t have many recent similarities, except that the Hammers manager once beat the Los Cules as Real Sociedad manager in a spell that will always be remembered more for his Spanish attempts than on-pitch success.

However, right now, West Ham must be feeling like Barcelona did in the summer of 2017. That transfer window was arguably the one which sent the Catalonian club into a downward spiral financially. They hit the nadir by losing Lionel Messi, and have only just begun to recover, but issues remain.

How does that compare to West Ham, though? There’s a case of Deja Vu at the Premier League side this summer and the Hammers would be wise to look at Barcelona’s window at that time as a case of what not to do.

Barcelona taken for a ride – Rewind to 2017

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Nobody expected Neymar to leave for Paris Saint-Germain, and Gerard Pique’s “Se queda (he stays)” on a picture with Neymar has forever entered the annals of funny footballing transfer lore.

However, the lure of Paris and the financial terms on display left Barcelona stuttering as PSG smashed the transfer world record to sign Neymar in a move that sent shockwaves through the world of football.

The move was so momentous that Barcelona were even refusing to accept the release clause paid by PSG, clearly aware that it meant more than just losing a player. It was a statement of intent that the club was also losing its lustre and pull.

However, once it happened, and it was always going to, the club was faced with a double-edged sword. Having €222 million in the bank for potential reinforcements is a good thing and a bad thing.

The good thing is that you have €222 million in the bank for potential reinforcements.

The bad thing is that everyone knows you have €222 million in the bank for potential reinforcements.

The first rule of negotiations is to always keep your cards close to your chest. If you flog your financial might, or if the market is aware of it, then any selling party will be eager to take you to the cleaners whenever you approach them for an asset.

Barcelona found this out firsthand. They went to Borussia Dortmund for Ousmane Dembele and Dortmund immediately quoted them €140 million.

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Dortmund knew two things – Barcelona are flush with cash and they are desperate for a reinforcement who will soothe the fans’ panic.

Josep Maria Bartomeu took the first step towards financial ruin by signing the deal.

A precedent had been set. Next up were Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann for a combined fee north of €250 million.

Overall, close to €400 million was spent on three players who can politely be described as the cursed trinity of financial ruin for the club. Even for the players, the pressure was so big that only Griezmann could recover from it, and that too at Atletico Madrid.

Nearly half a billion sank without a trace.

The problem is that Barcelona were in a no-win scenario. They couldn’t not spend the money coming in, and being smart with it is not a luxury afforded to the team if everyone knows you’re rich and desperate.

That’s where the parallel comes with West Ham.

A relevant case study for West Ham United

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West Ham United always maintained that they would demand a king’s ransom for Declan Rice. Ultimately, their stance was proven right and Arsenal signed the English midfielder for a fee north of €100 million.

Now to spend that cash when everybody knows you’ve made bank with a sale recently.

The Hammers are getting their offers rejected left, right, and centre. Chelsea rebuffed an approach for Conor Gallagher, Southampton demand more for James Ward-Prowse, Scott McTominay has become out of reach, and even Harry Maguire, a dispensable asset at Manchester United, is looking difficult to secure as every selling party plays hardball.

Their transfer search has gotten increasingly scattergun.

Even beyond the Premier League, interest in Elye Wahi, Denis Zakaria, and Edson Alvarez has not amounted to anything.

Clubs are licking their chops at the prospect of fleecing West Ham, a scenario that gains more strength as the clock ticks towards the end of the transfer window.

Supporters are panicking, a power struggle rages between the board and the manager about how to best spend the treasure chest they’ve been handed by Arsenal.

It is a recipe for disaster, a film that West Ham have seen play out in 2017 with Barcelona.

The best case scenario for them would have been to spend the Rice money before his transfer was made official, something Dortmund excel at while selling wonderkids.

Right now, things look bleak for the Hammers. Their best player has already left, leaving them weak sportingly. Their best bet now is to save themselves from getting fleeced financially so that at least they are not left helpless from a financial perspective. Because as Barcelona can attest to, that’s a blow that takes time to recover from. It will be even harder for David Moyes’ team, as they don’t have the historical pull of the Catalans.

A team of West Ham’s stature should have ambitions to be in Barcelona’s position, but they wouldn’t have thought it would be this way.

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