Our fears have become reality, as the already sour relationship between Barça and Ilaix Moriba with his agents has finally reached its breaking point. Following public accusations made by Joan Laporta, it’s highly unlikely that we will ever see him in claret and blue again. But how does the club denouncing any similar occurence affect Ilaix and other youngsters in the academy?
Ahead of the rest from the very beginning
Don’t get it twisted: Moriba is one of the most talented players the club has produced in recent times. It’s common for many fans to downplay the importance of a player departing, and the case of the 18-year-old is no different. Yet he was not an ordinary youngster. He was, in fact, one of the main revelations of 20/21. Ilaix’s output – both in offence and defence – is admirable, while his ball-carrying ability makes him an invaluable asset in the build-up and in transition. His body orientation is near-perfect which, combined with his exquisite first touch and ball control, make him impossible to stop on his day. As if that wasn’t enough either way, he has an exceptionally competitive mindset which he’s been praised for all throughout his youth career.
Frustrating contract negotiations
There was no doubt that Ilaix needed to continue. Following such a revealing breakthrough 20/21, it would have been a huge mistake not to at least try and convince him. His contract was due to expire in 2022, which is why the club needed to hurry a tad bit. And so Barcelona begun working on a contract extension for the promising youngster. Hoping for mutual understanding of the club’s financial state, they didn’t offer any significant salary rise. Understandably so – despite being categorised as a youth player, his salary was far from modest and already much higher than that of his competitors.
However, that is where the first stumbling block appeared. Moriba’s entourage, specifically his agency, demanded a salary that seemed exorbitant given the club’s appalling financial state. The involvement of the player himself was still disputed, but it was a sign of disrespect nonetheless. Ilaix’s agents should have taken the club’s lack of resources into consideration, but they remained inflexible. Despite the board’s herculean efforts, negotiations did not progress.
Laporta’s uncompromising posture
At that point, Joan Laporta decided to take matters into his own hands. When asked about Moriba’s contract situation, he took a firm stance on the matter. He ensured that he will never be promoted should he and his agents refuse to meet the club’s terms and encouraged the 18-year-old and any other youngster at the club to think twice before prioritising their own demands ahead of the club itself. He was very critical of him, an attitude that club presidents rarely adopt when it comes to their own players.
We’ll try ensure that cases like Ilaix’s aren’t repeated. He has one year left and does not want to extend according to our conditions. It is a situation that we do not accept. We gave him [Ilaix] opportunities, but no one is above the group… I would like him to reconsider and to reach an agreement. He has grown up here and we will not accept that he leaves the club for free.Joan Laporta during Emerson’s presentation as Barça’s new signing
A statement of intent from the board
Harsh though his words sounded, it’s refreshing to hear that Joan Laporta will not tolerate any such behaviour. The club is more important than the player. That’s a basic principle that players should follow. If you don’t respect that, you disregard the club’s dignity. Once the player (or his agency) thinks about his own demands and not the club, he does not deserve to stay.
Whether he was at fault or not, the club felt like Ilaix Moriba did not do enough to convince his agents to lower their requests. By publically expressing his dissatisfaction, Joan Laporta has set an example that few youngsters will from now on want to follow. In a way, Moriba is being presented as the scapegoat so that similar cases are prevented. Unyielding leadership.
Sombre prospects for Ilaix
Moriba’s senior career has only just begun, and it has done so with a bang. Yet the greed of his agents, along with his own hesitation seriously jeopardise his future. Countless are the talented players whose potential went in vain due to their career choices. Whether that involves the selection of the correct agency or the general involvement in his club’s interests, Ilaix seems to have got it all wrong.
Unfortunately, Barcelona have somewhat sacrificed Ilaix Moriba for the good of La Masia in the long term. From the outside, it looks like a cruel thing to do. The 18-year-old was raised in the academy and didn’t deserve to be treated that way. But the tensions are high within the club, and Joan Laporta certainly wanted to point out his intentions by openly criticizing Moriba. The club’s logic is comprehensible, but still leaves a bitter taste.
Can Ilaix turn his fortunes around at a different club? His talent suggests he is capable of it, yet the odds are against him. Few clubs can theoretically accept his high demands, and those already possess fully accomplished midfielders in their dynamics. The risk of Moriba getting lost in a big team’s youth ranks is very high.
Now, Barça will be desperate to offload Ilaix Moriba before the transfer window closes. It’s difficult to judge how much cash we can extract from his departure: after Laporta shred Moriba into pieces in his recent interview, his reputation has sustained severe damage. A realistic price tag could be around 30 million, though heaven knows whether even that is possible. The 18-year-old, with the aid of the club, has dug himself into a very deep hole. Whether he will bounce back is something nobody can judge. In the end, all we can wish him is to find his best form and the most favourable environment at his new home.