There’s an old saying in the world of finance.
‘If you owe the bank £1m, it is your problem. If you owe the bank £100m, it is the bank’s problem.’
Barcelona are taking that sentiment to the extreme as they continue to pummel their finances with big money signings, just twelve months after Lionel Messi said a tearful goodbye at the Camp Nou. Leeds United’s Raphinha is the latest to join the club, for a fee in the region of €56m. They fended off interest from Premier League teams to secure his signature and his wages join an already bloated list of players they can’t really afford.
Ousmane Dembele, who they spent an initial €100m on five years ago, looked destined to leave on a free all season but he has agreed a new two-year deal which to Barca’s credit, gives them another financial asset. But they are never going to sell him for a profit, so it is just further strain on their wage budget which is not so much bursting at the seams, but haemorrhaging cash at a rate of knots.
As Kristian Sturt explained on Twitter, last season Barcelona’s salary limit was €98m. Forced into a corner, the club pushed for long-serving players such as Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to take salary cuts. Despite the Spanish trio agreeing to these reduced terms, Barcelona’s salary limit is now minus €144m.
That’s not a typo. It means for every €10m the club makes they can only spend €2.5m, while Real Madrid’s salary limit is €739m by comparison. Frenkie De Jong’s sale to Manchester United has finally been agreed for an initial €75m, but the whole debacle has been underlined by another Barcelona issue.
They reportedly deferred wages and wanted United to help pay the €17m they owed De Jong before the move took place. That issue is as yet unresolved and the Dutchman isn’t the only player in this situation.
In January 2021, they asked Goldman Sachs and other banks to delay outstanding debts, and the situation hasn’t majorly changed, even with Messi and Griezmann off the wage bill. Barcelona vice president Eduard Romeu has recently said the club need €427million to save the club from its current mess but that amount would only half their total debt and they still owe almost €100m in multiple transfer fees.
This is a mess of humongous proportions and yet Joan Laporta is leading the club along this path to ultimate destruction. Now they have total wages of around €4.1m per week which has come down from the €5.6m p/w they were spending in 2020/21, but they still have eight players earning over €200k a week.
That’s money they simply cannot afford given the figures.
They’ve sold 10% of their TV rights for the next 25 years for €215m in a desperate attempt to regain control, but they are still hurtling towards destruction. The Blaugrana are attempting to shrink their wage bill again and could ask those senior players to take a year-long wage drop, while they could sell further TV rights to make ends meet.
Miralim Pjanic and Samuel Umtiti need to be offloaded, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen aren’t even registered yet and then there is making room for the addition of Raphinha.
All of this puts huge pressure on Xavi and performances that these players can deliver. They have to do well in the Champions League. They have to qualify for it again in La Liga. The De Jong deal has to happen.
Even if those things do happen, the club is still in the mire. They are drowning, with each sale only keeping their head above water. It will take some seismic changes for the club to comfortably stay afloat and by signing players like Raphinha, they are only adding to their struggles.
It’s difficult to imagine a footballing world without Barcelona, but unless things change, that is the future we are heading towards.
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