The financial mess that Barcelona finds itself in the midst of is truly staggering. Over the years they have been dragged into mountains of debt and now, under new leadership, the painful road to recovery has begun.
Unfortunately for them, there is no easy solution. In layman’s terms, Barcelona are now tied behind their backs and cannot sign any new players – including Lionel Messi – unless they make a great cut.
They need to make drastic savings of around €200m (£170m) this summer or else they will be captivated for next season. That means first team stars will be fired and salaries cut as part of LaLiga’s crackdown.
Barcelona Can’t Register Lionel Messi Until They Finally Solve Their Financial Chaos
For many, the economic restrictions in place in the top league in Spain are a very welcome step in football. The aim is to avoid spending that gets out of hand and to ensure that clubs continue to operate within their means.
Teams’ finances are thoroughly scrutinized by analysts working in an economics control department, and then a cost cap is set for their squads, which clubs simply have to adhere to.
This limit determines the highest amount that can be paid out to players, coaches, but also to the reserve teams and the academy. It is up to clubs how they spend this money, but the limit cannot be exceeded.
In fact, it is a similar system to UEFA’s Financial Fair Play. The experts delve into piles of data related to each club’s finances, with projected earnings, profits and losses, savings and debt payments all weighing against each other.
LaLiga (Photo: President Javier Tebas) imposes salary caps to control club spending
Only if LaLiga is satisfied will clubs be able to sign new players, and this is the dilemma Barcelona are currently facing. As it stands, they don’t have the permission needed to add to their first team for the new campaign.
Property under Josep Bartomeu was a disaster, and the years of mismanagement have returned to haunt Barcelona. The club admitted to being in debt of around €1.3bn (£1.1bn) and their cost cap has fallen drastically.
In the 2019-20 season, their cap was a hefty €671 million (£573 million), the largest in LaLiga. However, last year it fell to €347 million (£296 million). The next campaign is estimated at around €160 million (£136 million) in Spain.
As a result, they have been scrambling around for the past few weeks, desperate for solutions.
Years of mismanagement under Josep Bartomeu put Barcelona in trouble this summer
But now they may have found one. A swap deal between high earner Antoine Griezmann and Saul seems to be getting closer and closer, and offloading the former would be a big step in the right direction at the Camp Nou.
Griezmann’s contract with Barcelona is heavily boosted, but with bonuses his base salary shoots up from €12 million to €20 million (£17 million). Saul would arrive for less than half that amount, a savings that pushes his new club back to the brink.
In an ideal world, Philippe Coutinho or Ousmane Dembele would be sold instead, but after injury problems these deals could be impossible in the coming weeks. This has forced Griezmann into the line of fire.
Sports post has reported that Griezmann has kept in touch with his former team-mates in Madrid, even telling them he made a mistake in leaving in the first place. His return seems likely, though Saul may not be so pleased.
New president Joan Laporta arrived at the club tasked with solving their problems off the field
Antoine Griezmann looks set to be released back to Atletico Madrid in a swap deal with Saul
With Griezmann and his handsome wage bill, Barcelona can finally register their talisman Messi – as well as newcomers Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Emerson and Eric Garcia.
News broke on Wednesday that Messi has agreed to a 50 percent pay cut for a whopping five-year deal, but while the club’s best player – and arguably the greatest footballer in history – takes a minor blow, his teammates could be cancelled.
Barcelona need players like Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique to agree to pay cuts, and the club is hopeful that Messi has set the bar by approving the 50 per cent slash.
Samuel Umtiti is another big earner who has been given the exit, while other regulars of the first team such as Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto also face uncertainty in this window, with Barcelona considering their options.
Agüero left Manchester City and went to Barcelona for free, but can’t officially register yet
Everyone, except Messi, seems to be in danger. It is a situation no club wants to end up in, but it has now become unavoidable for Joan Laporta and the board. They have no choice but to act, otherwise a large number of stars will be left in limbo.
A game where they call LaLiga’s bluff hardly seems advisable either. In 2014, Pedro Leon refused a pay cut to be registered to play with Getafe and chose to file a lawsuit against the league.
He was able to play after being forced out, but in the end the legal system in Spain sided with LaLiga. As a result, he stayed with his club but was unable to get on the pitch as Getafe allegedly exceeded their limit.
Barcelona is playing dice with the same fate, and that is even with the leniency currently being shown to clubs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The old guard of Sergio Busquets (left) and Jordi Alba (right) may have to settle for pay cuts
Teams can use 25 percent of the profits from transfers for new costs, but the other 75 percent must be used to pay off the money owed. LaLiga has allowed this to ensure the transfer market remains healthy.
But what happens after that? The worst case scenario for Barcelona is that they are unable to return to their limit. This would leave all their new signings, including Messi, on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
They’ll of course use every trick in the book to prevent this – but further drastic measures could force some first team names they’d rather keep, while further exacerbating their loyal fan base.
Even Messi’s new contract smacks of kicking the can in the road, a policy that has now been reversed and has seen Barcelona forced to live up to their self-made demons. They can no longer avoid it and the damage will be enormous.