The financial mess that Barcelona finds itself firmly in the middle is truly staggering. Over the years they have been drawn into mountains of debt and now, under new leadership, the painful road to recovery has begun.
Unfortunately for them, there is no easy solution. Put simply, Barcelona now have their hands tied behind their backs and will not be able to register new players – including Lionel Messi – unless they make some brutal cuts.
They need to make drastic savings of around 200million euros (£ 170million) this summer, or they will remain deadlocked until next season. This will see first-team stars discharged and salaries cut as part of the La Liga crackdown.
Barcelona won’t be able to save Lionel Messi until he finally resolves his financial chaos
For many, the economic restrictions in place in Spain’s top flight are a very welcome move in football. Its aim is to avoid uncontrollable spending and to ensure that the clubs are functioning firmly within their means.
Team finances are scrutinized by analysts working in an economic control department, and a cost limit for their teams is then set, which clubs simply have to adhere to.
This limit sets the highest amount that can be paid to players, coaches, as well as reserve teams and the academy. It is up to the clubs to decide how they spend this money, but the cap cannot be exceeded.
Indeed, it is a system similar to UEFA’s financial fair play. Experts look at tons of data relating to each club’s finances, with expected income, profits and losses, savings and debt repayments all weighed up.
LaLiga (Photo: President Javier Tebas) imposes salary limits to control club spending
|Real Madrid||£ 401 million||£ 548 million|
|Barcelona||£ 327 million||£ 573 million|
|Atletico Madrid||£ 216 million||£ 298 million|
|Seville||£ 159 million||£ 158 million|
|Villarréal||£ 124 million||£ 93 million|
|Athletics Bilbao||£ 103million||£ 88million|
|Valence||£ 88million||£ 146 million|
|Real company||£ 86 million||£ 69million|
|The real Betis||£ 61 million||£ 85million|
|Celtic Vigo||£ 54million||£53m|
|Grenade||£ 48m||£ 30million|
|Getafe||£ 45million||£ 49million|
|Valladolid||£ 42million||£ 27 million|
|Osasuna||£ 40million||33 million pounds sterling|
|Eibar||£ 37million||£ 40million|
|Alaves||£ 36million||£ 43 million|
|Cadiz||£ 35million||£ 9 million|
|Levante||£ 32million||£ 47 million|
|Huesca||£ 32million||£ 15million|
|Elche||30 £||£ 5million|
It is only when La Liga is satisfied that clubs can sign up new players, and that is the dilemma that Barcelona are currently facing. As it stands, they don’t have the necessary permission to add to their first team for the new campaign.
Josep Bartomeu’s ownership has been a disaster and years of mismanagement have come back to haunt Barcelona. The club have admitted debts of around 1.3 billion euros (£ 1.1 billion) and their cost cap has dropped significantly.
In the 2019-20 season, their limit stood at € 671million (£ 573million), the largest in La Liga. Last year, however, it fell to 347million euros (£ 296million). For the next campaign it has been estimated in Spain at around 160 million euros (136 million pounds sterling).
As a result, they have rushed in recent weeks, desperately seeking solutions.
Years of mismanagement under Josep Bartomeu have plunged Barcelona into deep trouble this summer
But now they might have found one. A swap deal between Antoine Griezmann and money-making Saul seems to be getting closer and closer, and offloading the former would be a big step in the right direction at Camp Nou.
Griezmann’s contract at Barcelona is heavily incentivized, but with bonuses his base salary of € 12million (£ 10million) reaches € 20million (£ 17million). Saul would arrive for less than half that figure, a saving that pushes his new club towards the cap.
In an ideal world, either Philippe Coutinho or Ousmane Dembele would be sold instead, but after injury issues those deals might be impossible in the coming weeks. This forced Griezmann into the crosshairs.
Sportsmail reported that Griezmann has kept in touch with his former teammates at Madrid, and he even told them he made a mistake leaving in the first place. His return seems likely, although Saul may not be so satisfied.
New president Joan Laporta has arrived at the club tasked with finding a solution to their problems off the pitch
Antoine Griezmann set to be sent back to Atletico Madrid in trade with Saul
With Griezmann and his handsome income on the payroll, Barcelona will then finally be able to record their Messi talisman – as well as newcomers Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Emerson and Eric Garcia.
News broke on Wednesday that Messi has agreed to a 50% pay cut on a massive five-year contract, but as the club’s best player – and perhaps the greatest footballer in history – takes a little hit , his teammates can be removed.
Barcelona need players like Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique to agree to pay cuts, and the club are hoping Messi has set the milestone by giving the 50% slash his approval.
Samuel Umtiti is another high-earner who has been shown the exit door, while other first-team regulars such as Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto also face the uncertainty in this window, with Barcelona considering their options.
Aguero has left Manchester City and joined Barcelona for free, but cannot be officially registered yet
Everyone except Messi seems to be in danger. It is a situation that no club wants to find itself in, but it has now become a must for Joan Laporta and the board of directors. They have no choice but to act, otherwise a host of stars will be stuck in limbo.
A game where they call La Liga bluffing doesn’t seem desirable either. In 2014, Pedro Leon refused to accept a pay cut to register to play at Getafe and chose to initiate legal action against the league.
He was able to play after being forced to retire, but eventually the Spanish legal system sided with La Liga. As a result, he was left high in his club but unable to make it onto the pitch as Getafe reportedly exceeded his limit.
Barcelona suffer the same fate, and it is even with the leniency currently shown by 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 the transfers on new costs, but the remaining 75 percent must be used to repay the money they owe. LaLiga has enabled this to ensure the transfer market remains healthy.
But what happens next? The worst case scenario for Barcelona is that they can’t get back to their limit. This would see all of their new signings, including Messi, stay on the sidelines for the foreseeable future.
They’ll of course pull every tip from the book to avoid that – but other drastic measures could force a number of first-team names they’d rather keep, while still worsening their loyal fan base.
Even Messi’s exceptional new contract feels the kick in the box, a policy that has now been around and has seen Barcelona force themselves to live up to their self-made demons. They can no longer avoid this and the damage will be devastating.