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Barcelona swapping Arthur for Pjanic was a business move but for all the wrong reasons

5:20 PM ET

Sid LoweSpain writer

Imagine, for a moment, that everything turns out perfectly from FC Barcelona’s point of view. Imagine that in a year’s time, the agreement to sell Arthur Melo to Juventus for €72m (with a further 10m in potential add-ons) and sign Miralem Pjanic from Juventus for €60m (plus 5m in possible add-ons) works out so well that those fees, or better still one of them, no longer look quite so inflated. Hell, imagine it becoming a bit of a bargain. Yes, even when the increased wage bill is taken into account. Imagine the whole thing starting to look like a stroke of genius.

– Transfer news: Arthur joins Juventus, Pjanic to Barcelona

Imagine that Pjanic turns out to be the exactly player Barcelona need; imagine they win the league and the Champions League with their new signing. Imagine him scoring the winner, if you like. (A brilliant goal, too.) Imagine that at the same time, Arthur handily does nothing at Juve. Not next year or any year for the next decade, long after Pjanic has retired. Imagine him hardly playing; imagine looking at him, injured and uncommitted — and make no mistake, some at the Camp Nou would love that — and thinking how clever it looks to have got rid, the blame all his.

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Imagine all that, and this deal is still a defeat. However good it gets, this doesn’t stop being another expression of failure, still symbolic of a system malfunction. It’s not so much the departure of Arthur in itself that saddens some fans, and it’s certainly not the arrival of Pjanic; it’s what it all means. What it reveals, again. Imagine that this ends up being the right move — and it might — it’s still for the wrong reasons.

Since he joined Barcelona in 2018, Arthur has started less than 50% of their games. He got injured a lot. He got accused quite a bit, too, reports of nights out filtered to local media at just the right moments. (Expect that to accelerate now as the club tries to justify the sale of supposedly ruined goods.) Whenever…