Raphinha, Frenkie De Jong and €1bn in debt: Barcelona’s untenable situation
There is an old saying in the world of finance.
“If you owe the bank £1million, that’s your problem. If you owe the bank £100m, that’s the bank’s problem.
Barcelona are taking that sentiment to the extreme as they continue to slash their finances with big signings, just twelve months after Lionel Messi bid a tearful farewell to Camp Nou. Raphinha from Leeds United is the latest to join the club, for a fee of around 56 million euros. They’ve fended off interest from Premier League sides to secure his signature and his salary joins an already bloated list of players they can’t quite afford.
Ousmane Dembele, who they spent €100m on five years ago, looked destined to leave for free all season but has agreed a new two-year deal which, to Barca’s credit, gives them another trump card financial. But they’ll never sell it for a profit, so it’s just added pressure on their payroll budget which isn’t so much jam-packed, but hemorrhaging cash at a knot rate.
As Kristian Sturt explained on Twitter, Barcelona’s salary cap last season was €98m. Forced into a corner, the club have been pushing for long-serving players such as Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba to take pay cuts. Although the Spanish trio agreed to these reduced terms, Barcelona’s salary limit is now minus €144m.
It’s not a typo. This means that for every €10m, the club can only spend €2.5m, while Real Madrid’s salary limit is €739m in comparison. Frenkie De Jong’s sale to Manchester United was eventually agreed for an initial fee of €75m, but the whole debacle was underlined by another Barcelona issue.
They reportedly deferred wages and wanted United to help pay the €17m they owed De Jong before the move. This issue is now resolved, but the Dutchman wasn’t the only player in this situation.
In January 2021, they asked Goldman Sachs and other banks to delay unpaid debts, and the situation hasn’t changed much, even with Messi and Griezmann off the payroll. Barcelona vice-president Eduard Romeu recently said that the club need 427 million euros to save the club from their current mess, but this amount would only be half of their total debt and they still owe nearly of 100 million euros in multiple transfer fees.
It’s a mess of gigantic proportions and yet Joan Laporta is leading the club down this path of ultimate destruction. Now they have a total salary of around €4.1m per week, which is down from the €5.6m/w they were spending in 2020/21, but they still have eight players earning over €200,000 a week.
It’s money they just can’t afford given the numbers.
They sold 10% of their TV rights for the next 25 years for 215 million euros in a desperate attempt to regain control, but they are still rushing towards destruction. The Blaugrana are again trying to reduce their wage bill and could ask these senior players to take a one-year pay cut, while they could sell other TV rights to make ends meet.
Miralim Pjanic and Samuel Umtiti need to be offloaded, Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen aren’t even signed up yet and then there’s room for the addition of Raphinha.
All of this puts huge pressure on Xavi and the performance these players can deliver. They must do well in the Champions League. They need to qualify for La Liga again. The De Jong deal has to happen.
Even if these things happen, the club is still in the mud. They are drowning, each sale keeping only their heads above water. It will take some seismic changes to keep the club comfortably afloat and by signing players like Raphinha they are only adding to their struggles.
It’s hard to imagine a world of football without Barcelona, but unless things change, that’s the future we’re heading towards.
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