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Barcelona's Pogba transfer tactics: Why it's great copy but lousy for reputation

COMMENT: Paul Pogba and Barcelona. It makes great reading. Great copy. Especially when those with influence at Barca insert themselves right in the middle of the story...

But what is this doing for Barca's reputation? Not amongst us. Not amongst those on the outside looking in. But how do their peers view all this. The overtures. The calls. The public pursuit of transfer targets. Day after day. Week after week. And all played out across the world's media. Is this Barca regime tearing at the reputation of the club and it's values?

Don't get us wrong. We love it. When Josep Maria Bartomeu, the Barca president, says "Pogba? There's still 20 days left of the window", it's a headline grabber. When Ariedo Braida, Bartomeu's international scout, gushes "he's an amazing player", we know readers will eat it up. And that's just from those off the pitch. It carries even more weight when it's a fellow pro.

"...I would be very happy to have him here," so said Gerard Pique earlier this season, while his Barca teammate Luis Suarez has gone further, basically stating Pogba is simply too good to be wasting his time at Old Trafford.

"Pogba's an elite player who's won everything," stated the former Liverpool striker. "He has a lot of quality. I think he would like to be competing for more than he is at the moment. He's not a player that belongs to Barca, but he would always be welcome."

Again, it all makes great copy. But from some willing to talk openly, it's clear those inside the boardrooms of Europe's biggest clubs are getting increasingly fed-up.

The case of Liverpool, Philippe Coutinho and Barca has been done to death. But for the Blaugrana of 2018, that was just the appetiser. While Liverpool - as United thus far - have kept their own counsel, it hasn't been the case on the continent. And it's been the response from two of Barca's Champions League rivals which offers some insight of how the behaviour of this regime is viewed.

"We are tired of Barcelona's attitude," declared Miguel Angel Gil Marin, Atletico's GM, at the height of Barca's push to sign Antoine Griezmann last season. "That a president, a player and a director of the same club talk in the way they do about the future of a player with a contract in force and a few days away from playing a final of a European competition seems to me an absolute lack of respect towards Atletico Madrid and all its fans."

A few weeks later, before that infamous pre-World Cup video, Gil Marin went further, with a clear threat: "We will contemplate denouncing Barcelona for having negotiated with Griezmann, as we have proof of their contact."

In the end it all fizzled out. Griezmann using the 'Pique production' to announce his commitment to Atletico. But you get the picture. For Barca, there's few friends left inside the Atleti boardroom.

And the same can be said in Paris - at PSG. Their president, Nasser Al-Khelaifi, matching Gil Marin with a warning of taking Barca to FIFA after learning of club directors speaking to Adrien Rabiot without permission in August. This only a year on from similar frustration being expressed over Barca's attempts to lure Marco Verratti from Paris. Indeed we can confirm it was the Blaugrana's actions regarding Verratti which in part motivated (or inspired depending which side of the table you're on) Al-Khelaifi to get the backing to pay Neymar's €222m buyout clause - a transfer performed without direct communication with Bartomeu or any of his directors. And something that still riles Barca's president today.

"When someone regrets," Bartomeu, just a fortnight ago, began when discussing Al-Khelaifi's anger with Real Madrid and their interest in Neymar, "he should think if he has done the same thing on occasion. I do not think PSG has not spoken to Neymar before paying his clause. How do you get away from hypocrisy?"

Touche? Perhaps. Particularly if you're a Barca fan. But hypocrisy? C'mon. You can just imagine the bitter reaction to Bartomeu's claims inside Anfield and the Metropolitano. But for the news cycle. For the headlines. Please keep it going, Barca. It all makes great copy.

However, don't be surprised if this public transfer policy brings unwelcome consequences. That mantra of Barca values, so often espoused by this board, may no longer generate quite the same gravitas as it did with past regimes.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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