Barcelona have been granted special permission by La Liga to make an emergency signing outside of the transfer window
Thursday 20 February 2020 18:53, UK
Barcelona have confirmed the signing of former Middlesbrough forward Martin Braithwaite.
Quique Setien has been placed in a tricky position barely one month into his reign at the Nou Camp. The Barca head coach is having to contend with an injury crisis at the sharp end of the pitch with Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele both likely to miss the rest of the season.
As part of a La Liga ruling, Barcelona were granted permission on Monday to sign a striker that is a free agent or currently playing in La Liga.
Having ended their interest in Real Sociedad's Willian Jose and Getafe striker Angel Rodriguez, they have now activated the 18m euros release clause for Leganes forward Braithwaite.
It is an unlikely turn of events, and one that is set to leave an unsatisfactory taste in Spain, according to Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero...
"There's a rule stating that if you can demonstrate through a medical proof that a player of yours - in this case, Ousmane Dembele - is injured for more than five months, you have permission to sign a player during the next 15 days.
"Barcelona have shown medical proof to La Liga that states Dembele will be out for six months.
"Dembele had the exact same injury some months ago in the other leg and he was out for just three months. La Liga have accepted the medical documents, so as of Monday, Barcelona have 15 days to sign a player - and Martin Braithwaite is that player."
"Realistically, there were very few options available during this period but every player in Spain has a release clause.
"Braithwaite had a £15m release clause in his current contract at 19th-placed Leganes, who were keen to keep him as they attempt to avoid relegation from La Liga.
"But there was nothing they can do to stop him leaving. Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi have astronomical release clauses at Juventus and Barcelona respectively, but Braithwaite's is just £15m."
"At Leganes, we say in Spanish, he is the 'head of the mouse'' whereas in Barcelona he is the 'tail of the lion'.
"His agent Ali Dursun is the same as the agent who represents Frenkie de Jong. He was in Barcelona on Monday but the complication is that the player cannot feature in the Champions League as the squad for the knockout stages has already been submitted, while Barcelona are already out of the Copa del Rey.
"He can only play in La Liga and there are 13 games left. Barcelona are effectively paying £15m for a player who will mostly be on the bench.
"Setien will go with Antoine Griezmann and Lionel Messi but let's see what happens with the 17-year-old Ansu Fati and some of the other players. Barcelona will still try to sign a bigger name next summer up front."
"The maximum number of games Braithwaite is going to pay is 13. He is then very unlikely to play the next four seasons. It's like a plaster - a bandage. It will only be for these games, but the chances are he will be sold in the summer for a cut-down price.
"Barcelona know they are likely to make a financial loss, but there is always the possibility that he is called upon to play due to other injuries. For Leganes, they are not allowed to sign a replacement and although they're going to earn £15m, it's going to significantly impact their chances of survival in La Liga.
"This ruling is not new, but it has seldom been activated. The medical documentation that determines how long a player is expected to be absent has only recently been enforced.
"By being relegated, they're going to lose more than £15m. It would be worth much more to them to keep the player and to stay in the top flight. As it is, they're going to be relatively rich, but rich in the cemetery."
Tottenham are now in a position where they could certainly do with an emergency striker with Heung-Min Son joining Harry Kane in the treatment room, but Jose Mourinho can only sign free agents.
Premier League clubs are currently permitted to sign emergency goalkeepers based on medical documentation, but could the same 'emergency signing' of an outfield player make its way into the Premier League?
"The current rules on making transfers in England to me seems the most fair way of doing dealings. Barcelona fans here in Spain feel this is a problem relating to their club. It's their own fault.
"Of course, no one knew Dembele was going to get injured, but last summer the feeling was things weren't done correctly in the transfer window. It's the same with Real Madrid, but they've been lucky with Karim Benzema not getting injured.
"Mariano Diaz is lacking confidence while Luka Jovic has struggled, but they have been fortunate."