When it comes to transfers, it’s very easy to get excited when a new addition arrives but player departures often bring disappointment and anger. In recent years Roma was mocked for being a supermarket, Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva’s move to Paris St Germain bookmarked the beginning of Milan’s decline, the triggering of Higuain’s release clause opened a significant wound, while the curse of the player’s will weakened Juventus’ midfield with Vidal and Pogba’s departures.
But there are instances where shrewd sales help clubs open new cycles. Napoli reinvested the proceeds of the Cavani and Lavezzi sales very well, Moggi turned Zidane into Buffon, Nedved and Thuram and Atalanta have built the current squad by previously selling the Conti, Kessie’, Cristante and Caldaras of the world. Interestingly this season’s surprise team in Serie A has been able to emerge despite selling their best player Nicolo’ Barella.
Cagliari were very patient with Barella who came up through their youth system and was a highly rated prospect since 2012 when he was named best young Italian midfielder for players his age. Barella started establishing himself in Serie A in 2016, made his debut with the Italian national team two years later and was linked to both Napoli and Chelsea last January. Cagliari decided to hold on to him a bit longer and were handsomely rewarded for their patience since Barella became a starter in the Azzurri’s midfield before fetching around 50 million for his transfer to Inter (12 million for loan, 25 million for obligation to buy plus 12 million in bonuses).
While Cagliari’s president Giulini softened the blow of losing Barella since he sold him to his favorite team Inter (of which he was a board member for 8 years) he was actually able to improve his club. The Sardinian club in fact reinvested the proceeds of the Barella sale very well, they acquired highly rated midfielder Nahtan Nandez for 18 million, which will look like a bargain should the former Boca Juniors continue to perform at this level.
Nandez has been a rock in Maran’s midfield this season and will garner a large plusvalenza in the future to essentially repeat the Barella cycle, but he isn’t the only new addition making an impact. Cagliari also acquired Marko Rog on loan with option to buy, the Croatian international never fully settled under both Sarri and Ancelotti at Napoli, he has shown good improvements this season.
Caglairi had also planned ahead for Barella’s departure by acquiring Christian Oliva on loan with option to buy from Nacional last January- they exercised their option for 5 million and now the midfielder is finding space on Maran’s squad. Having the influx of cash from the Barella transaction also allowed Cagliari to take a flyer on bringing back Radja Nainggolan, whose had some sensational matches, as well as finding two quality replacements to replace the injured Alessio Cragno and Leonardo Pavoletti, who just happened to be Cagliari’s best players last season other than Barella.
Normally for a club like Cagliari replacing their starting keeper and leading goal scorer at the very end of the transfer window would spell doom for the upcoming campaign since by this time most clubs have already blown through their budgets. But having the cash flow from the Barella deal allowed them to get Giovanni Simeone, a more than adequate replacement for Pavoletti and a player with considerable upside.
They say that the harder you work, the luckier you get and maybe that is the case with Robin Olsen. Cagliari had to scramble after Alessio Cragno suffered a significant injury to his shoulder at the beginning of August, and while Olsen has a good track record as Sweden’s keeper, he was as much as a liability as Rudy Giuliani on a cable news show while defending Roma’s goal in his first season in Serie A.
After Olsen’s expected move to Montpellier collapsed, Cagliari were able to acquire him at the end of the transfer window. Olsen has been very impressive and while he will likely cede the starting job back to Cragno, he’s a big reason the club is off to such a good start.
Cagliari have been able to make the most of the Barella sale. They planned ahead by previously acquiring Oliva and setting their sights on Nandez early, they weren’t afraid to gamble on reclamation projects with upside with Rog and Simeone and used their new fund cash flow to pay substantial salaries to veterans like Naingollan and Olsen- sometimes selling your best player is far from a blow.