Barcelona return to training on Wednesday but, new coach aside, it will be the same old faces at the club’s Joan Gamper headquarters after the first six weeks of the summer have been spent chasing shadows in the transfer market and failing to get rid of the players the new manager doesn’t want.
Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez both arrived in the city on Tuesday and their incorporation – Messi having agreed to sign a new contract keeping him at the club until 2022 – are the principal reasons to be cheerful.
But the failure to bring top targets Hector Bellerin and Marco Verratti, and the inability to shift the great unwanted – full-back Douglas, centre-back Thomas Vermaelen and midfielder Arda Turan have dampened any signs of optimism ahead of the new season.
And most supporters have been completely baffled by the bizarre attempt to bring in €25m rated Paulinho, a player dumped by Spurs in 2015 – everyone keen to sell at extortionate prices to China, but Barça want to buy.
The club have so far managed to bring in just one player. And Gerard Deulofeu was a simply exercising a buy-back clause operation – no great coup, and not enough to save Director of Football Robert Fernandez from a reshuffle that appears to have majorly reduced his authority.
It seems former Liverpool youth team coach Pep Segura is now higher than Fernandez in the food chain when it comes to deciding which players the club sign.
There is still time for the club to save its summer. They have until the close of the transfer market in China on Friday to make a decision on Paulinho. Almost unanimously supporters are hoping he does not arrive.
At 29 he is too old, and at 25m euros he is far too expensive for most fans’ tastes. Unless Guangzhou Evergrande take Turan in a simple part-exchange the stadium will be empty for his unveiling.
Supporters want Verratti and have not given up on him arriving once Paris Saint Germain have replenished sufficiently to allow for players to leave.
Bellerin looks far more difficult and has all but been completely ruled out leaving the option of Cesar Azpilicueta gaining favour in some quarters – he would certainly be more gettable than his Arsenal counterpart but still by no means straightforward having been one of Chelsea’s best players last season and very happy in West London.
The over-riding sensation is one of frustration. While Madrid have signed Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos, the latter of those two Barça showed a belated interest in, Barcelona have been overwhelmingly inactive.
And while Madrid cooked up a plan to get James Rodriguez out of the club Barça are wondering what to do with Vermaelen who is back from an unsuccessful loan spell at Roma and Douglas – the Brazilian full-back – who went to Sporting Gijon last season and played his part in their relegation.
In the absence of any new signings the picture that Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu is desperate to have taken is the one of him sat alongside Messi – the ink still wet on his new four-year deal.
Messi will not be at Wedesday’s first session back. He, Turan, Gerard Pique and Neymar are in Japan for the official presentation of Rakuten as the club’s new shirt sponsor.
Messi has only just flown back from his honeymoon but will now spend a couple of days meeting and greeting, among others, Rakuten Chief Executive Hiroshi Mikitani.
The Argentinian will start training on July 15 and a week later he will play in Barça’s first pre-season friendly against Juventus in New Jersey.
There are those that believe for as long as Messi is at the Camp Nou, Barcelona will win things.
But it was not enough last season against a resurgent Madrid, and as Barcelona begin pre-season training again on Wednesday many believe it will not be enough in the coming campaign either.
They need to start behaving like a big club in the transfer market so they can compete like one when the season starts.