The big talking point within the last week of football has been the contract saga surrounding Raheem Sterling, with one section of the debate describing Liverpool not learning lessons in relation to their methods of extending contracts of star players.
Steven Gerrard’s one-year extension dragged on, Luis Suarez was forced to train temporarily with the reserves after supposedly disrespecting the club amidst Arsenal interest and then Jordan Henderson’s negotiations became public knowledge.
Two reasons that Sterling is reportedly considering refusing to sign a new deal at Anfield are that the club haven’t kept his contract talks out of the press and that they haven’t pushed hard enough to protect him from negative headlines.
Despite three previous examples of how not to manage contract dealings, Liverpool are making the same mistakes again.
However, it seems that the Reds are not the only one of Europe’s top sides that are failing to learn from costly past errors.
Back in 2013, Barcelona were faced with a real problem in maintaining the services of arguably their best young midfielder and certainly the player that was considered the long-term successor to Xavi.
Thiago Alcantara had the world at his feet, but it became clear that the Catalan giants had made a grave error in terms of a clause in his contract.
Despite Barca having Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas in their ranks, if Thiago didn’t play in 60 per cent of Barca’s matches, his minimum fee release clause dropped from €90m to just €18m.
Pep Guardiola stepped in and met this release clause and Thiago has already made himself the future of the Bayern Munich midfield.
Now it is another product of Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy that is available to leave under familiar circumstances for a pittance of his true worth.
Central defender Marc Bartra also needed to feature in 60 per cent of Barcelona’s matches this season to adhere to his contract terms, if not his minimum fee dropped to €10m (£7m).
Yet despite being touted as Gerard Pique’s successor, Bartra has played in only 13 La Liga matches in this campaign.
The interesting comparison in all of this is 31-year-old defender Jeremy Mathieu, strangely signed for €20m last summer.
Prioritising the development of Bartra, especially given the contract clause, should surely have been Luis Enrique’s priority, but instead the experienced Frenchman has featured in 27 Spanish top-flight matches.
These two recent fixtures sum up Barcelona’s failings and would rightly lead Bartra into thinking his future lies elsewhere.
Barcelona beat Cordoba 8-0 on May 2nd and were happy to rest Javier Mascherano on the hour mark. But Mathieu was brought on and Bartra remained an unused sub.
It was the same in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final with Bayern Munich. Barca were coasting through when taking Ivan Rakitic off on 72 minutes. Again it was Mathieu that was introduced.
Bartra has made 12 appearances in all competitions for Barcelona in 2015 and only one goal has been conceded, which was also a penalty. In his 18 games in total, the Catalan giants have won 17 and drawn 0-0 at Malaga.
With Barca running riot in ample La Liga games this season, handing Bartra ten minutes here and there would surely have been straightforward to meet the appearance needs of his contract?
Instead, Luis Enrique now has to live with the consequence of probably losing a defender for a cut price and one that has grown up with the style of the club, having been at La Masia since the age of 10.
Recruiting central defenders to learn this ball-playing style has not proved easy in recent years (think Dmytro Chygrynskiy) and so to have to sell one that is highly regarded and that needs no specialist coaching is a blunder of the highest magnitude.
Not that the likes of Manchester City will be upset with Barcelona’s lacklustre approach to contract conditions. It is 5/1 that Bartra is a Man City by the closing of the summer transfer window.
This is being touted as a big summer for the Citizens in terms of transfer dealings and a squad overhaul could well be on the agenda.
There is growing pressure on director of football Txiki Begiristain to recruit successfully, given the starting XI of the club hasn’t improved since winning the Premier League in 2012.
What better way to start than by snapping up a bargain and not only that, but one he knows especially well given his previous stint within the hierarchy at Barcelona.
Man City may have only conceded 38 goals in 37 Premier League matches this season, but they have lost more defensive challenges than any other club.
Martin Demichelis continues to be relied upon at the age of 34 and there are grounds that captain Vincent Kompany is past his best, making this the optimum summer to cash in on him.
Kompany continues to make the same mistakes in being too proactive with his defending, pushing too high in an attempt to win back possession and then getting caught out of position. It’s clear that he is not going to sway from this style.
Bartra is now 24, the same age Kompany was when starting to look like the most commanding central defender in the top flight and only a year younger than when the Belgian was crowned Premier League Player of the Season.
He is ready to become a first-team regular at a big club with Champions League ambition and isn’t far away from approaching his peak years. Signing him for the equivalent of £7m should be a no brainer for any club.
The main competition is likely to come from Bayern Munich, given Guardiola’s knowledge of Barcelona’s academy, undoubted glowing references from Thiago and the fact they simply need more defenders in their squad.
The odds on Bartra being a Bayern Munich player on September 2nd is 7/1, with 1/3 the price that he remains at the Nou Camp.