The big question is: What is Begiristain's record like?
Before we start it is worth remembering Barcelona had a very unique system in place during Txiki's time. Barca had a once-in-50 years crop of youth players come along in a very short space of time which certainly helped Txiki. Barca didn't really have that many pressing needs from 2007/8 on. The youth products were sensational and the focus was on highly technical players who could easily fit into a style of play that ran all the way through the football club: movement, intelligence, ball retention and recycling, and a blitz pressing game.
It is also worth saying that part of Barcelona's focus was to shift out players whose attitudes were deemed to be below the required standards. Deco and Guily were two such players. Ronaldinho was another with Eto'o unfairly lumped in with the Brazilian as someone who didn't always behave in a professional manner.
Writing this the word IBRAHIMOVIC screams out!
So, Txiki/Soriano, you fired Mancini, you will hire Pellegrini and these are two very important parts of building a football club in the mould you desire. Player recruitment is vital next step, so what does the track record look like?
Looks like a tourist photo. May as well have been. Keirrison: ZERO games played for Barcelona
Keirrison - £12.3m - Striker. A disaster, although not crazily expensive. Is averaging 6.3 goals per year at clubs not named Barcelona. On loan, will never play for Barcelona. Fail.
Chyrgynskiy - £22m - Defender (22 yo). Highly rated, played 12 games for Barcelona before being sold the year after signing. Barca ate a loss of £9m on the player. Fail.
Maxwell - £3.9m - Defender. A good squad player, a good soldier who didn't stir up trouble when not playing. Played 50 League games over two and a half years before being sold for £3m. Success, low price for 50 games.
Ibrahimovic - £61m - Striker/God. Signed at 27 yo, entering the peak years of his career. Amid crazy politics ( Messi wanted to play centrally and alone, Guardiola didn't take to him as a player or person so the rumours go),scored 16 in 29 league games before being part ex'd. Sold just one year later for a huge loss. Criminal Failure. Signing price is probably £10m too high. Txiki was replaced and his replacement sold Ibra.
A terrible year for recruitment. Ibra should have been a sensation, but personality and playing styles meant it was a disastrous signing. Maxwell was good value, but just shy of £100m was wasted on players unsuited or not good enough for Barcelona. A crime. £99.2m
One of Begiristain's better signings
Henrique - £7m - Defender. Who? Really, who? A 21 yo Brazilian defender. Released after 3 years having never played a game for Barcelona but had loan spells at various European clubs. Not even nearly covered the £7m fee. Fail
Martin Caceras - £14.5m - Defender (22 yo). Played 13 league games for Barcelona, was then loaned out for two years. Sold to Sevilla 3 years after signing for £2.6m. It's a hefty transfer fee and very little return. Sold this past season to Juventus for £7m, so has at least had a career. Fail
Dani Alves - £31.2m - Right Back (26 yo). A great signing, crucial to Barcelona's attacking scheme where the fullbacks overload and provide width. Price was crazy high, but he was the best right back in the world. Played over 160 league games for Barcelona now. Great Success
Gerard Pique - £4.4m - Defender (22yo) A clear success story, was sold by Ferguson who, so the stories go, believed J Evans to have greater potential. An easy signing to make, bringing home the 'stolen' youth product. A great price too. Great Success
Hleb - £14.9m - Midfielder (26 yo) A strange signing at the time, and it never worked out for Hleb although the midfield competition was ridiculous. Played just 19 games for Barcelona during the 4 years of his contract, 3 years of that contract spent out on loan. Fail.
Seydou keita - £12.3m - Midfield. Signed from Sevilla, a feeder club of sorts Barcelona at the time, as a utility player. Made 69 start and 50 subs in the league for Barcelona. A good soldier who played at of games and didn't cost the world. Success
A couple of midfielders were added, Keita was good, Hleb not so much, but this was the year that Txiki tried to fix his defense. Pique was inspired, as was the expensive Alves. Henrique and Caceras were disasters. £78m
Yaya Toure - £7.9m -Midfield (24 yo) Very easy to see how good Toure is now, but massive Kudos to the scouting department for identifying him and the coaching department for shaping him as a player (much to City's benefit) and Txiki for securing him at such a low price. Became a mainstay in Barca's midfield until his non-Catalan identity, Busquets and a contract clause forced a move away. Catalans here still shake their heads in disbelief that he was sold and Fabregas, a different player at ahigher price, was bought in his stead. Great Success
Thierry Henry - £21m - Striker (29yo) Signed for quite the fee even if the down slope of his career wasn't quite evident yet. Signed as a scoring striker, proceeded to play most of his Barca career as a left inside forward. But that is on the coach not Txiki. Scored 35 goals in 81 league games. Success
Gabriel Milito - £17.6m - Defender (26 yo) Signed from Zaragoza, Gabriel played for 3 years for Barca notching 48 appearances for the club as a squad player. A useful utility plug and play type, the size of the fee and the number of games played leaves me underwhelmed or to give this signing a pass. Fail
Henry was supposed to be the standout signing, he was very good, but this became the year that Toure signed. He added power in midfield and the ability to play center back if needed. £46.5m
Zambrotta faced off-field distractions durig his time at Barcelona
Zambrotta - £14m - Defender (29 yo) Played 80 league games for Barcelona at right and left back and was pretty good value for his fee. Sold 2 years later for £10m. Success
Gudjohnsen - £12m - Forward (27 yo) Scored 10 goals in 72 league games, although he is remembered as a slight disappointment. Sold 3 years later for £2m. Difficult to judge this one, more was expected from him. Fail, but only just.
Thuram - £5m - Defender (34 yo) Played 57 league games over 2 years in the twilight of his career. Not bad going, retired a Barca player. Success
A year of tweaking, Gudjohnsen was underwhelming, but good value was gotten out of the two defenders. Catalunya was a more beautiful place during Zambrotta's spell. £31m
Van Bommel - Free - Midfielder (28 yo) A free signing and won a European Cup in his one year at Barca. Sold a year later for £6m. Styles didn't really match, but not a bad pickup or re-sale. Success
All the transfer business to build the EC team was done the year before. £0
Albertini in his Milan days.
Maxi Lopez - £6.5m - Forward (20 yo) A young striker who never lived up to the potential. Was free transferred a couple of years later. Still playing in Italy, still not scoring much. Fail
Albertini - Free - Midfielder (32 yo) A depth signing who only played a dozen or so games for Barca. Iniesta was along soon enough. Fail
Eto'o - £27m - Forward (23 yo) 107 goals in 144 games is a brilliant return on the money. An inspired signing who was eventually forced out due to Guardiola and his failure to speak Catalan in interviews, much to the annoyance of the fans. Great Success
Deco - £21m - Forward (26 yo) Played 113 times in 4 seasons before being sold to Chelsea. If Eto'o was the finisher, Deco and Giuly provided the bullets. A talented player, part of a group who won the EC but was then forced out to make way for Barca v 2.0. Success
Giuly - £8.5m - Forward (27 yo) 19 goals in 85 games for the Frenchman who played for 3 seasons at Barca. The fee was low and he was a fine player. Success
Edmilson - £8m - Defender (27 yo) Played 71 league games for Barca but did so over 4 seasons. Essentially, he was a depth player, a plug and play type. Few games per year, maybe more was expected. Fail
Belletti - £6m - Defender (28 yo) Again played 71 matches, but over three seasons. Was a good squad player who could play in big games. A couple of million cheaper and more games per year means this signing was a success.
Sylvinho - £1.5m - Defender (30 yo) Depth player, great team guy (if that means anything!). Played 89 league games over 5 seasons and for that price that is a great signing. Success
Van Bronckhorst - Free - (29 yo) 105 league games during two spells. Anytime a club as good as Barca are get a over 100 league games out of a free signing it has to be considered a success. Success
Larsson - Free - Forward (32 yo) A free after his legendary spell in Scottish football. Scored 13 goals in 40 league games in the twilight of his powers. Again, a free who could play in a mighty good team. Success
Lionel Andres Messi Cutticini (17 yo) A youth product, but his graduation into the first team was down to years of patience and persistence with a fragile teenager. Needed extensive physio and drug treatment to be strong enough to play. His arrival, and eventual maturation, shaped Barca's future recruitment policy. 215 goals in 246 league games. Change the course of the football club. A gift from God.
This was the season which built the first very good Barcelona team. The striker in Eto'o, the creative forwards in Deco and Giuly and a lot of games from cheap defensive signings. £78.5m
The future...and the past.
Ronaldinho - £32.5m - Forward (23 yo) A superstar in the Galactico age. Wonderfully talented, I saw his debut along with Danny and he was the best player I had seen in the flesh for a long time. 70 goals in 145 matches, he was the brilliant bridge to Messi and Barca V 2.0. Great Success
Quaresma - £6.5m - Forward (19 yo) A direct winger of huge potential, was a little overwhelmed at Barca but was sold for £6m a year later. Went on to be transferred for 24m to Inter Milan. Potential was there, timing was out. Fail
Marquez - £5.2m - Defender (24 yo) A great signing. Signed for a low fee, Marquez went on to play 163 league games for Barcelona during his long spell. Inspired. Success
This will be remembered as the year that Ronaldinho the great arrived, and deservedly so, but Marquez was a long serving player and cheap at that price. £44.2m
Let's break some of these signings down position by position.
Some good, some bad. Alves and Pique are the standout signings of Txiki's reign. We also saw some cheap depth players who went on to play a lot of games for Barca, so kudos there. But there were some mistakes, none bigger than Chygrynskiy at £22m, Caceras at £14m. Milito at £17m, and Henrique and Edmilson cost in the £8m range. It's hard to argue that any of that £70 odd million was particularly well spent.
Txiki was excellent on the cheap signings and poor on the expensive one's save fopr Dani Alves.
Very few midfielders signed, there just wasn't that team need for them. Albertini was in and out of the club quickly, Van Bommel and his style won a EC but was sold at profit a year later. Hleb was a mistake, Keita was good value, Toure was an incredible signing at under £8m.
Some good - Henry, Deco, Giuly.
Some Brilliant - Ronaldinho and Eto'o.
Some mistakes and some bad one's.
Lopez was a cheap mistake, Keirrison (never played a game) was a really bad mistake but at £12m can be buried. The Ibrahimovic signing was a criminal mistake. A fan told me Txiki probably lost his job over the signing. Ibra is a brilliant player and was at the time of signing, but the style didn't fit. Messi and Guardiola were growing in influence at the club and it was decided that Ibra's style and personality weren't a good fit to the holistic environment at the club.
If you are going to spent £61m plus/including Eto'o, who was brilliant, you have to make sure that everything is right. The style, the personality, the potential. I am just not sure if Txiki did his due diligence on this one. It didn't look right at the time considering the footballing direction Barca were heading in, and it doesn;t look right now. It was a bad mistake. He will need to learn from this considering a 'big' striker signing is probably in the offing at Man City.
We have 29 players on the list and this is my highly opinionated success or fail ranking. 18 to 11 in Txiki's favour.
This was a hard task, not made any easier by SBnation, but I think it was a worthwhile one. In evaluating Begiristain's transfer dealing we have uncovered a little information on his hits and misses, his strengths and weaknesses.
Low cost signings - Begiristain has gotten a lot of value out of the cheaper signings and mostly they have come in defence.
Forwards - Begiristain's record is pretty good, Eto'o, Deco, Giuly, Henry, Larsson all covered their transfer value's to a certain extent.
Ibrahimovic - It's a signing he had to get right and he didn't. It was an awful lot of money to waste.
Pricey Defenders - Begiristain had, throughout his time at Barca, continually bought defenders. The cheaper one's were fine, but my oh my did he waste some money when the cheque showed sums of over £6m. The list of bad one's is long.
Prospects - Maxi Lopez, Quaresma, Keirrison, Caceras and Henrique were all under 22 and they all failed. Again, Barca was tough team to break into but he needed to do better than this. Begiristain's folly when buying young players was saved by the best youth crop in 50 years.
To conclude: Begiristain had some very good things going for him as Sporting director. He was excellent at finding low cost squad depth, his forward signings were mostly good and he didn't need to buy in midfield due to the existing talent at the club and in the pipeline. But, he got the biggest transfer of his career wrong and so much money was wasted on trying find quality defenders in the mid to expensive range.
A lot of money was wasted in the mid 2000's when quality defenders were available if you could afford them, instead Txiki gambled on mid price range defenders and prospects and save for Pique, none of those signings worked out long term, as was his aim. This was a problem in Txiki's early reign and he was still making the same mistakes near the end of his reign (chygrynskiy, Caceras and Henrique).
What Does This Mean For Man City?
Difficult to tell, he was buying for need at Barcelona and he will be doing the same at Man City. Luckily, Begiristain's faults when buying defenders may not harm City too much. We are set with Kompany and Nastasic. Zabaletta and Richards should be OK at right back. Clichy needs some help and I would expect another center back may be brought in as cover/long term prospect.
City need help in midfield. Garcia isn't good enough, Barry is aging and Rodwell need time. I would expect at least one midfielder to be brought in to help Toure. We just don't know enough about Begiristain's record when buying midfielders for he has never really had to do so.
As for strikers: Dzeko will likely be sold, Tevez may also go. Aguero is going to need some help. Begiristain got it very right with Eto'o and very wrong with Ibra, although his overall record in buying forwards is pretty darn good. It will probably be an expensive deal and he need to get this right.
Begiristain has likely chosen his manager, chose his academy staff and the plans for upgrading facilities is well in place. His next job is player recruitment, it's a big job and he has, overall, been pretty successful in doing this over the years. Cut out some of the waste, get the striker signings correct and hopeful we can talk about Txiki having done a good job. His history in the transfer market has not been without problems though.