Barcelona have been exceptionally busy this summer, with work on and off the pitch ensuring the club rarely make the headlines and frequently confusing outsiders.
Joan Laporta has a longer to-do list than most clubs, starting with big deals, back-and-forth battles with Spanish football authorities and the seemingly never-ending struggle to cut the contracts of those already at the club. and his work is far from over.
With the constant updates almost at odds with each other and the remarkable team rebuilding exercise they’ve started, the tough question is: what exactly are Barcelona doing this year?
For most viewers outside of LaLiga, the big question marks revolve around the problems of Barcelona’s transfers and in particular registering these new players when they don’t seem to have the money to pay for those who already own them.
So far this summer, Barca have sold, loaned or otherwise disposed of seven high-level players, the most notable being Philippe Coutinho. He is also the only one who brought in any significant fee. On the inbound side there are currently spends around £140m: Robert Lewandowski (£42.5m/€50m), Jules Kounde (£42.5m/€50m), Raphinha (£55m/65m). euros), Franck Kessie (free) and Andreas Christensen (free).
A side issue alongside wages is their salaries, which range from around €120,000 a week for the former Leeds and Chelsea pair to €180,000 for Lewandowski. These additional salaries are far from cheap, although they are reduced in relative terms for the Catalan side: lower than the Polish striker earned at Bayern Munich, for example, and lower than the salaries of the previously signed players.
This all lays the groundwork for the real problem in terms of registering these newcomers to LaLiga: can the club afford what it spends?
During the first week of August, Barcelona tried to register their new faces – and re-sign old ones – but were prevented from doing so by La Liga. This was due to the club’s finances not covering its expenses for the coming year. All Spanish clubs must submit this documentation for each campaign. Herein lies the impact of the ‘economic levers’ we’ve heard so much about this year: these are the mechanisms set in motion by the Barcelona president to bring additional income into the club and the additional expenses – Salaries and signings – to account for in other words – to pay.
Levers included the massive sponsorship deal with Spotify that covered shirt and stadium, the sale of part of the Barca Studios venture and the sale of two television rights packages which – along with other commercial revenue and player sales – resulted in a fund, according to the club Dump of more than €850m (£720m).
However, it wasn’t enough to convince LaLiga, who radio station Cadena Cope claimed turned down part of the deal as €150m of that money was returned in Barcelona from the club evenafter paying it to another company that partially owned it to partially fund the sale of the TV rights package.
Dissatisfied that the league did not ‘interpret’ the finances as Barcelona had, Laporta forced a fourth lever to be pulled: the sale of a €100m stake in the club’s audiovisual production company (85th May). million pounds).
In the end, four newcomers could be booked, Kounde dropped out – the decision made easier because he wasn’t fit.
Ferran Correas, a Catalonia-based journalist from Diary ASexplained The Independent that it wasn’t just the Camp Nou club but others – Betis and Almeria were name checked – who couldn’t register players for similar reasons, while others continue to choose not to sign players at all, fearing they won’t register to can you. But why integrate them all now, rather than in a more manageable, multi-window approach? The reasoning is twofold, he said.
“LaLiga has its rules and you have to accept them. What it did was not accept any capital gains from the sale of the TV rights that Barcelona considered valid,” explained Correas. “I think LaLiga should change their rule structure – it’s stricter than the other big leagues. If it doesn’t become more flexible, LaLiga will lose compared to the Premier League or the Bundesliga.
“Laporta wants to start the virtuous cycle that led to success in his first era at the club. He wants to win to bring in more money, which will help clear the debt and strengthen the team.
“A lot of good players have also been signed to put pressure on those who aren’t wanted to leave. Those who have arrived earn less money in the [new] salary structure; The club would like those who have already been there to join the same pay structure as it currently pays many of them above market value.”
This view is broadly shared by LaLiga TV commentator Andy West.
Barcelona finished second in the league table last year, but viewers can be forgiven for not noticing, given how far off the pace they were, how low on the ladder they were when Ronald Koeman left, and the fact that they haven’t been seriously challenged in Europe for a number of years. “Joan Laporta’s view is that he had no choice: he believes that a club of Barca’s size and pedigree has an obligation to fight for major trophies every season and if he set his targets lower he would be in his position failed as club president.” West tells The Independent.
But there is still work to be done and time is running out during this transfer window.
Pay cuts and Frenkie de Jong
The rather obvious elephant in the room at the moment remains Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong.
Throughout pre-season he was deployed in defence, shown the players ahead of him in midfield and told the club needed his departure for the ‘good’ of their future, relying on his emotional understanding of the situation. So far, that hasn’t happened as De Jong has agreed to defer around €17m in wages if his contract is renewed during the pandemic.
He was still on a basic salary of €9m (around €180,000 a week) last term, with this deferred money to be split and paid out over the remaining years of his contract. Those are the finances that De Jong understandably wants paid for if he leaves early and that Barcelona are asking him to either forego a new contract or fully renew to align with the club’s new payment structure.
Of course, many other huge deals at the Camp Nou are still holdovers from the days when the last president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, was still in charge – an era of absurd excesses, overpayment and terrible recruitment.
“Barcelona realized that the huge contracts awarded during the Bartomeu era were unsustainable, so they tried to lower their wages to more reasonable levels,” West said. “So the signings come at significantly lower wages than Barca have paid in the past.
“With that in mind, their attempts to get Frenkie de Jong’s salary down is more understandable – he’s by no means the only player they’ve been dealing with. Sergi Roberto, for example, agreed a new contract with a 60% pay cut.”
“Frenkie de Jong has a very expensive contract that the club cannot afford,” Correas agreed. “You want him to either lower it or leave – he’s also the player who could bring in a big fee to sign others. Regardless of which option arises, the other players can be registered. Martin Braithwaite is different – Xavi doesn’t want him and there’s no place in the squad with several other forwards.”
While De Jong was present for the season opener, Danish striker Braithwaite was completely absent Sports reports that the head of the Danish Players’ Association, Michael Sahl Hansen, called the Catalan side ‘completely unreasonable’ in their treatment of him. Fans mocked the striker in pre-season when it emerged the club wanted him to leave, with Hansen saying it was “somewhere between bullying and harassment”. It’s a shame how Barcelona are trying to get him out of his contract, out of his job.”
What next for Barcelona?
First expenses. Then success. That’s the plan, the circle of virtues that Correas mentioned, but football doesn’t always go the way you want it to.
A 0-0 home draw against Rayo Vallecano confirmed that in the opening weekend, with Sergio Busquets sent off, Lewandowski very calm and January signings Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench alongside new signing Kessie.
Miralem Pjanic was also there as a reminder of the strange and costly mistakes Barca have been making in the market in recent years. You can’t afford that to be the case with the latest generation, but there’s another variable at play: Xavi Hernandez, absolute icon but totally unproven as a head coach.
“The worst-case scenario is that Xavi fails as a coach and has to be fired, and then the new manager decides he wants to overhaul the squad,” West said. “That would put Barca back in the position of wanting to make multiple signings without the possibility of funding them with Laporta’s leverage – they would be very reluctant to sell any more commercial assets.
“This team and this manager really need to be successful and Xavi himself was spot on when he acknowledged two things: anything but winning La Liga or the Champions League would make this season a failure and the pressure is on now provide him with this squad as a coach.
“But the worst-case scenario being touted by some parts of the UK media – that the entire club will collapse under the weight of its debt and cease to exist – is a huge exaggeration. That’s just not going to happen.”
That latter point is correct and is probably the safety net that Laporta doesn’t want but knows it’s there just in case. The sums spent are enormous, and the risk of sporting failure is high. But Barcelona are an absolute money machine. Earlier this year, Forbes’ list of the most valuable clubs, Barcelona is in second place with over $5bn (£4.2bn). Deloitte’s Money League listed Barcelona’s earnings in 2022 total just over €580m, fourth in Europe.
They didn’t have to go as big as they did this year, but the lure of chasing sporting success — particularly for those elected to office — has perhaps as much impact on decision-making as anything else.
Kounde, De Jong, maybe Bernardo Silva. Another name or two – Juan Foyth, Marcos Alonso, Aubameyang – could all still make the final moves at the Camp Nou in this turbulent summer.
Then the focus will really turn fully to football and we’ll see how the answers emerge, whether Xavi is the leader hoped for, the recruitment is a complete success and whether their approach in the summer of 2022 was the right one at all too take.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/barcelona-transfers-finances-la-liga-joan-laporta-b2142927.html Explained: The inexplicable summer of FC Barcelona