From the moment Bayern Munich publicly withdrew their offer of a new contract to David Alaba, the Austrian’s future was the subject of much speculation. As one of the best players in his position, the 28-year-old was always likely to be pursued by Europe’s elite and so it proved, with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City and Manchester United all linked at one point or another.
Real Madrid, however, appear to have won the race to sign Alaba. Marca claim the Austrian has agreed to join the Spanish giants on a four-year contract worth a reported £204,000-a-week after tax with Alaba set to arrive at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer, when his contract with Bayern Munich will expire.
One club that never really had a chance of signing Alaba was Barcelona. This is despite the fact Ronald Koeman is desperately short of senior central defensive options this season, with Gerard Pique currently sidelined through injury and Clement Lenglet out of form. What’s more, as a technically able ball-player, Alaba would have been a good fit for a club that traditionally favours such figures.
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That Real Madrid were seemingly able to get a deal done for Alaba as a free agent without much competition from their Catalan rivals says a lot about Barca’s current futility in the transfer market. Money is tight at the Camp Nou. It’s been this way for a while, with deals for Miralem Pjanic and Jasper Cillessen primarily intended to balance the books over improving the squad.
Politically, Barcelona aren’t in a position to make any significant signings either. The postponement of the club’s long-awaited presidential election due to the Covid-19 pandemic means Barca will continue to tread water for the time being. The club will remain directionless until there is a new boss in the boardroom.
It’s this situation that prevented a deal for Eric Garcia being completed this month despite the 20-year-old being desperate on a return to the Camp Nou, out of favour at Manchester City and out of contract at the end of the season. A move for someone of Alaba’s calibre, and on his wages, likely wasn’t even contemplated.

Joan Laporta

Image credit: Eurosport

Even when Barcelona elect a new president (Joan Laporta is widely believed to be the frontrunner), the first point of order will be resolving Lionel Messi’s future. With the Argentine’s wages off the books, Barca might have more freedom to make some moves in the transfer market. A new contract extension for Messi, however, would restrict them.
Luis Suarez is still to be replaced by Barcelona while Sergio Busquets continues to fade as a force in central midfield. Jordi Alba remains a key figure, but the left-back will be 32 in March. Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza have done a decent enough job at centre-back this season, but neither have the natural leadership qualities of Pique, whose fitness struggle is becoming a real issue.

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Barca might have to choose between keeping Messi, the greatest player in their history and possibly of all-time, and rebuilding their squad. The financial and political situation at the club means they will struggle to do both, although encouragement can be taken from the number of promising youngsters coming through at the Camp Nou.
The signing of Alaba hints at how Real Madrid could accelerate away from Barcelona if the situation at the Camp Nou doesn’t improve any time soon. Real Madrid have financial constraints of their own, with the Santiago Bernabeu undergoing a €570 million revamp, but there has been no sign of the Spanish champions scrimping for players like Martin Braithwaite yet.
Real Madrid’s recent transfer market record is patchy. Eden Hazard is still to find form and fitness since his €100 million move from Chelsea in 2019 while Luka Jovic, who cost no less than €60 million, failed to make any sort of impression in the Spanish capital, returning to Eintracht Frankfurt on loan this week. Eder Militao is another signing who has so far failed to deliver.
As long as Barcelona are frozen by uncertainty, though, Real Madrid have little to worry about. Resolving Messi’s future isn’t the only concern at the Camp Nou right now. Far from it. And the expected arrival of Alaba in the Spanish capital this summer will prove it.
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