When the Midfielder arrived at Camp Nou, Lionel Messi knew little about Arthur.
In the summer of 2018 the Brazilian joked that an extra bonus to join Barcelona will be an opportunity to test whether Lionel Messi “is from this planet or not”
Like many of us, Arthur had often wondered whether the six-time winner of the Ballon d’Or was truly human.
However Messi was not as familiar with the talents of Arthur. Therefore he was pleasantly surprised to find that the style of play of the new arrival bore a striking resemblance to that of a former team-mate.
“I didn’t know that much about Arthur but he seems similar to Xavi,” the Argentine said. “He’s very safe and trustworthy. He has La Masia style: playing short passes, without losing the ball.
“He grasped it very quickly, the dynamic of the team.”
During Arthur’s impressive debut season at Camp Nou, the Xavi comparisons just kept coming.
Yes, maybe the greatest compliment one might give him is that Barcelona always seemed like a stronger team in the start line-up with him.
In possession of the ball he was unbelievably confident, and pushed it quickly and efficiently.
Only Xavi was shocked.
“I see myself in Arthur,” the Barca icon told Radio Catalunya. “He thinks quickly and he still has work to do, because I improved my game at Barca and I would not have got so good in another school.
“But Arthur looks mature. The priority in the middle of the pitch is to not lose the ball and he makes it look easy. He plays well and steadily.
“I see great potential in him.”
At Barcelona, though, he will not get the chance to realize it.
As revealed, Arthur will have a medical place in Turin on Sunday ahead of a move to Juventus at the end of the season.
He simply did not want to quit. And the fans did not want him to leave-definitely not as part of what is potentially a Miralem Pjanic swap contract.
Arthur has not had a good season. Just before he was distracted by the transfer talk, the 23-year-old performed poorly according to coach Quique Setien.
Setien’s January appointment would have been a good development for Arthur, despite the possession-oriented style of play by the former Betis manager.
Arthur may have regressed, however. He has become increasingly inconsistent, and on the ball he has looked slow and ponderous.
Yes, it was no accident that Setien’s decision to replace him with Riqui Puig in the crucial win over Athletic Club last Tuesday changed the whole complexion of the match.
The youngster brought the energy and incision which had characterized Arthur’s game before.
The problem, then, is not so much that Barca sells Arthur – but that they replace him with Pjanic.
If this season Arthur was poor Pjanic was worse.
The Bosnian has struggled to adapt adequately to the Juventus football brand of Maurizio Sarri and has understandably been deemed a surplus to requirements.
Seeing that Sergio Busquets, Frenkie de Jong and the aforementioned Puig all look better choices in the middle of the pitch, what Barca is going to do with him is the guess of all.
Pjanic was a great footballer but now he is 30 and clearly in decline. The last thing this Barca squad wants is another ageing star who obviously has gone past his prime.
It is a signing that does not make sense from a sporting point of view, but then it is not really about soccer – it is business.
At the moment Barcelona is more concerned with balancing the books than creating a Champions League-winning team.
Of course this is hardly surprising.
They may have dominated the Deloitte Football Money League this year, but in the past six years they have invested nearly € 1 billion and have possibly only made five strong signatures: Luis Suarez, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Samuel Umtiti, De Jong and Arthur.
Yet Barca is not only wasting resources – they are also wasting the very highest amount of Messi’s final years.
Last Wednesday the Argentine turned 33, and remains an outstanding player. The problem is Barcelona has never been so reliant on his genius.
This season the Blaugrana scored 72 goals in La Liga; Messi was directly involved in over half of them (21 goals, 17 assists).
Of course he is still posted crazy numbers in this context. What is relevant now, though, is just how much Messi is involved in Barca’s action.
He is had 2292 touches this season in La Liga which is more than he is tallied up in the 2008-09 season (2158) – and almost as many Barca’s midfield lynchpin Sergio Busquets this term (2457).
Messi’s 151 dribbles also completed – no one else has managed more than 43 (De Jong).
Essentially, the captain will do whatever he can. To make things happen in midfield, he has to drop deep and then move forward to set up or finish chances.
It is a ludicrous situation for a scale and profit club in Barcelona. But not surprisingly any more.
After all, for two years, Barca required a replacement from Luis Suarez, but somehow they found themselves in a position where they had to sign an emergency signing in February just so that they had enough numbers in attack for the rest of the campaign.
The ensuing suspension of play triggered by the outbreak of coronavirus only further demonstrated the deep tensions at Camp Nou and the severity of the financial problems facing the club.
In truth, however, one only needs to watch them play to understand how badly the club is running, with their star player now surrounded by a supporting cast that is largely under-standard.
Barca would like to call themselves ‘more than a band’ but they are less than Messi deserves right now.
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