Barca must sell after Coutinho, Mina arrivals but bargaining position is weak
Oscar Grau, Pep Segura and Robert Fernandez can give themselves a pat on the back. We're not even at the halfway point in January and they have managed to tie up deals for the two players Barcelona wanted this month: Philippe Coutinho and Yerry Mina.
As far as Grau, Segura and Fernandez are concerned, Barca's CEO, general manager and sporting director, it's a case of job well done. But it doesn't mean they have time to sit back and relax for the rest of the month. The hard work is only now beginning.
Not that bringing in Coutinho and Mina was easy. Liverpool forced them to wait six months and then spend €160 million on the former. It made the Brazilian the third most expensive player on the planet, despite the fact, as good as he is, he's not anywhere near being one of the best three players in the world at the moment.
Even Palmeiras, who had a long-standing agreement to sell Colombian international defender Mina to Barca for €9m in the summer, managed to wrangle an additional €2.8m out of the La Liga leaders. That's pennies in the current market but it's also a sign that clubs can often dictate the negotiations when Barca come calling for their star performers.
It's a different story when clubs come knocking for Barca's players. Mainly because the scenario is different. Barca are trying to sign players clubs don't want to sell, whereas they're trying to sell players that club's know they don't want anymore. Their hand is weakened from the start.
That's why the hard work starts now. With Coutinho and Mina on board, Barca's first team now tallies 26 players. Ernesto Valverde has said he wants to work with a smaller squad on several occasions, most recently on Wednesday, on the eve of the confirmation of the Mina deal.
But regardless of Valverde's preferences, there's also a need to shift money from the wage bill. The club's own budget prediction for this campaign says sports costs, which includes player salaries, will rise to €588m -- up from €432m last season.
Those figures were released in October and it's not clear if the arrival of Coutinho or Mina, two deals which have been in the making for a long time, were accounted for. What is clear, though, even if they were considered, is that the club need to reduce that figure if they're to remain within the recommended security threshold, which allows for 70 percent of their revenue (which was €708m last season) to go on sports costs.
As a direct result of Mina's signing, Barca will sanction Javier Mascherano's move to Chinese Super League side Hebei Fortune, coached by Manuel Pellegrini. Diario Sport report that the club will receive €10m for the 33-year-old Argentine, who joined the club eight years ago from Liverpool. More importantly, though, it will free up €130,000 each week in wages.
Mascherano's not the only player Barca are hoping to shift. However, he's the only one, so far, they've agreed a fee for. The rest -- Gerard Deulofeu, Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal and Rafinha -- are proving harder to shift simply because clubs are aware of their need to sell.
Turan has reached an agreement to return to Turkey with Istanbul Basaksehir. But Barca have not yet agreed a fee with the Turkish side to shift the €85,000-a-week midfielder, who has not played a single minute of competitive football under Valverde. Sport say they're holding out for €10m. They might have to settle for less, if not a loan.
Then there's Deulofeu, who commands €75,000 a week and returned from Everton last summer for €12m. Barca, at least, want to recoup that fee. There's interest from Inter and Napoli. Inter also want Rafinha on loan, although there's a dispute over how much the option to buy will be at the end. Finally, Sevilla, Valencia and Atletico Madrid have all been linked with Vidal. Again, Barca want more than clubs are prepared to pay.
With three weeks of the transfer market remaining, Barca are right to hold out. The problem is, in the end, they have to reduce the size of the squad and the wage bill. That is why Grau, Segura and Robert have got their work cut out for the rest of the month as they try to negotiate the best possible deals for players everyone knows they're happy to see leave.
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.