Futubol With Tai Emeka Obasi

Is COVID-19 A Blessing To Football?

Football took a huge tumble since the pandemic called Coronavirus started ravaging God’s globe.
Matches have been played and still being played behind closed doors. Sponsorship, television and general marketing of the world’s greatest sport took an unbelievable dive for the very worst.
But beyond this damning gloom, is there any positive this crazy invader brought along the horizon of the ever beautiful game?
Check out the value of £198 million. For Nigerians, that’s over N134 billion. And for those from or living in my own Anambra State, that’s nearly my state’s total budget for 2021.
Now, relate this to the fact that this was the whopping amount Paris Saint Germain, PSG forked out just to transfer one footballer called Neymar Jnr from Barcelona in the year 2017. It was so outrageous that the BBC captured it thus, “you could buy three Boeing 737-700 passenger planes for the equivalent of one Neymar.”
There’s only one word to appropriately express it – CRAZY!
Barcelona, in a bid to replace the Brazilian, went gaga too. Since the Brazilian left Nou Camp, the Catalans have gone on a spending spree of Ousmane Dembele (£105 million), Phillipe Coutinho (£140 million) and Antoine Griezman(£107 million).
But the big question is  – were these excessive expenditures worth the troubles? Not anywhere near. At best, Barcelona has been accused of stupidly lavishing scarce funds on players that never aligned with their famous DNA.
Keen followers wondered deeply why a club with about the best youth system in world football, talking about the famous La Masia, would suddenly adopt the galacticos approach of the eternal rivals, Real Madrid.
For whatever reason, Barca made an unforgettable mistake. For over a decade, Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andre Iniesta rated as the three of the best five players in the world. Alongside Carlos Puyol, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, the former trio gave Barca the best performance moments in history. All the six and some others have one thing in common – passing through that incredible youth system called La Masia.
Why would Barca then abandon this very productive food chain to recklessly throw money away in name of signing ready-made players? No other answer than one word says it all – MADNESS!
Today, the trio of Coutinho, Dembele and Griezman are nothing but monumental failures at the Nou Camp-based outfit.
Before Barca could jump into the market to attempt making amends by signing other ready-made players, COVID-19 came with its economic devastation of all sectors.
And with bankruptcy knocking very threateningly on Barca’s hitherto very solid doors, the Catalans were forced to look inwards. And up came unknown Ansu Fati from the academy. Age 16, the Guinea Bissau-born prodigy has broken senior debut, first senior goal and other records in his supersonic rise to stardom. And when one remembers this is a route the great Messi treaded, it becomes very glaring the club must have lost other greats to managerial recklessness.
A 16-year old boy that cost nothing was outperforming a 28-year old purchased at £140 million! Coutinho is not a useless player but he has never managed to imbibe the famous Barca DNA. Neither has Dembele nor Griezman.
Today, COVID-19 has reoriented and aptly educated this great club into unearthing four more very talented youths from that La Masia factory. Oscar Mingueza, Riqui Puig, Ilaix Moriba, Francisco Trincao and Pedri are now not only steady squad members but also knocking hard on starters’ spots in the very competitive La Liga. Little wonder Messi is coming alive again despite being few months to his 34th birthday. Birds of same feather definitely flock together.
The world’s greatest player was so frustrated with the junks his club had been signing since past four seasons that he handed in a transfer request. But with these full Barca youngsters coming up, it’s almost certain that the incredible Argentine would continue in Barca until his last days on the pitch.
It is not only Barca that the pandemic educated.
In England’s Arsenal, sanity is equally having a say. Prior to the pandemic season, Arsenal had purchased Nicolas Pepe for £72 million. The Ivorian has failed to justify that price tag but because there’s no money to purchase a replacement, the club was forced to promote Bakayo Saka from their youth system. Today, the Nigerian-English 19-year old is already proving a far better player than Pepe will ever become.
It is not the only story in the North London outfit. Last season, the club did everything but meet the asking price of Houssem Aouar from France’s Olympique Lyonnais. Disappointed, the club was forced to look the way of 20-year old Emile Smith Rowe from the youth cadre. Today ESR has joined Saka as one of the best Arsenal players this season.
And so many clubs with similar tales.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a curse to everything it met on its way, from very unfortunate deaths to unprecedented economic strangulation but in the case of football, it’s not all gloom. Footballers are costing outrageous transfer figures and it was high time it’s checkmated. If this pandemic has not already done that, then nothing else ever will.

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