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Barca’s ‘monstrous’ transfer season

Barca once fell into a financial crisis because of uncontrolled spending, but now they spend their money on transfers to find a way out.

When Covid-19 ravaged the financial situation of the teams, the Barca leadership devised a plan.

They appoint a representative, submit a proposal to UEFA. Barca want to borrow money under UEFA’s guarantee to improve financial situation stemming from bluff spending on player transfers from the time of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Specifically, Barca will borrow a bank, with the collateral being the television and media rights they receive from UEFA when playing the Champions League in the following seasons.

UEFA immediately rejected that proposal, because there is no guarantee that Barca will participate in the Champions League through each season. Unlike the draft Super League that helps the giants be sure to attend, Barca needs to win the Champions League through sports achievements such as entering the Top 4 of La Liga. It is impossible to say that they will always be in the Top 4 in the future.

Barca representatives were very surprised when UEFA rejected this proposal.

When asked about the matter, UEFA replied to  The Athletic  that they could not comment, for security reasons.

Barca were desperate, but their opponents were taken aback by President  Joan Laporta ‘s moves in the recent transfer market.

The surprise of the opponents turned to anger and bitterness, when Barca spent $ 143 million to recruit Raphina from Leeds, Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich and Jules Kounde from Sevilla. They also signed free contracts with Andreas Christensen (Chelsea) and Franck Kessie (Milan).

Barca has angered European clubs with these deals. They beat Arsenal and Chelsea to sign Raphinha, beat Chelsea again in the Kounde deal, or made Lewandowski publicly announce that he wanted to leave Bayern.

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Lewandowski publicly demanded to leave Bayern, in exchange for a four-year contract until the age of 38 at Barca. Photo: Reuters

Barca also re-signed winger Ousmane Dembele, after the player’s contract expires at the end of June 2022. Barca also surpassed Real to buy potential teenage player Pablo Torre from Racing Santander. And yet, they also target Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso, and Man City’s Bernardo Silva.

The typical case in Barca at the moment is midfielder Frenkie de Jong. Three years ago, he left Ajax to Barca for a transfer fee of $ 79 million. Now Barca is forcing him to leave so the team can register new players. The problem is that Barca still owes De Jong 21 million USD in salary. The Dutch midfielder wants to receive this money if he has to leave. While the owner of Camp Nou wants him to reduce his salary if he stays. Former defender Gary Neville thinks De Jong is being “bullied” at Barca, and calls on the World Association of Professional Footballers (FIFPro) to support the 25-year-old midfielder.

Just two months ago, Laporta also said that Barca was “clinically dead” when he was elected president in March 2021. At the time, he also said that the team was “in the intensive care unit (ICU)”.

In August 2021, Laporta revealed Barca owed 1.38 billion USD. Even after Lionel Messi’s departure, the team’s salary budget is still higher than their revenue. And the team’s net worth dropped to negative $451 million.

They had to borrow an additional $80 million to pay off employee salaries, and a long-term loan of $550 million from Goldman Sachs to restructure other debts.

Center-back Gerard Pique also had to reduce his salary to an almost negligible level, in order for the team to sign Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia. CEO Ferran Reverter said an internal Barca auditor concluded the team was essentially in a state of bankruptcy. If Barca were a public company, they would have been dissolved.

Reverter resigned in February 2022. There is no one to replace him, because Laporta wants to expand his influence in the team.

Witnessing the opposite developments at Barca, Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann exclaimed: “Barca is the only team that doesn’t have money, but can buy all the players they like. I don’t understand why they can do that. Transfer period. Barca’s is monstrous and crazy.”

At Camp Nou, the leaders looked at the situation from a different angle. Today’s investment is the driving force for Barca to return to the shape of a big man on and off the pitch. From there, the team’s finances will also grow. Laporta says he respects all opinions, but others have no information to say about Barca as such. “The players we signed this summer are like investments,” he said. “People can see it as an expense, but if I don’t, the team can disappear. The old players are also satisfied because the rookies also adjust their salaries to suit their new structure. I”.

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Laporta is playing a gamble at Barca. Photo: Football Espana

Barca’s risky solution this summer comes from unsatisfactory results on the pitch and in financial statements a few seasons ago. After eight La Liga championships in the period 2009-2019, Barca has been empty-handed for the past three years. It has also been seven years since Barca played in the Champions League final.

Their point of decline is probably from the most expensive deal in Neymar history to PSG, and the wrong decisions afterwards. They spent $384 million on Philippe Coutinho, Dembele, Paulinho, Nelson Semedo, Gerard Deulofeu and Malcom. Then they put in another $280 million for Antoine Griezmann, De Jong, Martin Braithwaite, Neto, Junior Firpo, Emerson and Marc Cucurella. It is difficult to confirm that any of these players will be successful at Camp Nou.

And Laporta had to decide to roll the dice and look forward to the team’s performance on the field.

Last month, he went to Las Vegas and watched  Barca beat Real Madrid 1-0. Even if it’s just a friendly, this result is exactly what Laporta is aiming for. He needed the team to act, and return to glory immediately.

Another option for Laporta is to sell and liquidate the pillars to reduce debt and loss, but accept the team will be empty-handed in the next few years. A former Barca commercial leader said Laporta he wanted to do the same. He will take the risk and continue to let the team invest.

This method has been used by Laporta since he first became president of Barca in 2003. At that time, Ferran Soriano was still the executive director of this team. Recruit superstars like Ronaldinho to create a brand, from which finance will also prosper.

Lewandowski is an important piece in Barca’s strategy next season, like Ronaldinho nearly 20 years ago. The problem is that Barca gave the 34-year-old striker a four-year contract, although he reduced his salary but not significantly. Some Bayern leaders think they benefit in this deal, when receiving $ 46 million in transfer fees for players with only one year of contract left.

Despite signing Lewandowski, Barca have not been able to register him to play in La Liga. The same situation also happened with other rookies, including Dembele. They need to liquidate more players, or ask the old players to reduce their salaries. La Liga is also just a week away from kicking off.

Barca used to be the first team to surpass the $1 billion revenue milestone in 2019, but then the salary fund “eats” most of the proceeds. Thanks to  Lionel Messi ra, and Antoine Griezmann is on Atletico Madrid’s salary, Barca’s salary fund has decreased by more than 200 million USD since then. But, they still have to borrow more.

In addition to a huge loan from Goldman Sachs, Barca also activated financial leverage.

The first is the agreement to receive sponsorship from Spotify in March 2022, helping Barca receive $ 64 million per year. Spotify is the world’s leading digital music service, with $100 billion in revenue over the past 10 years. Barca also agreed to sell 25% of its income from La Liga television rights over the next 25 years to the Sixth Street Investment Fund. The first 10% of this contract helps Barca receive $ 273 million.

Previously, they, along with Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, rejected a 50-year contract with CVC Personal Investment Fund, letting them take 8% of the La Liga television rights each year. Messi had to leave partly because Laporta refused this offer of CVC and La Liga.

On August 1, Barca continued to sell 10% of Barca Studios shares to earn $ 102 million. Laporta also accepts to sell 49% of Barca’s retail operations to get cash right now. That made him criticized because Barca’s short-term actions will affect the long-term. But an unnamed former Barca leader told  Athletic  that Laporta had no other choice. “He has to take a risk, or let the club slowly die. The next president of Barca will have to deal with the consequences of the summer of 2022,” he said.

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Barca played positive friendly matches, when unbeaten in five summer matches in 2022. Photo:  FCB

Because the transfer window closes on September 1, and the season begins with Barca on August 13, they will pre-register a few players that are really necessary according to La Liga regulations. For example, they will register Lewandowski and Dembele, while Kounde and Raphinha will have to wait a few more rounds when the team looks to liquidate players like De Jong, Martin Braithwaite or Ferran Torres.

Barca is so desperate that when negotiating with Leeds about the Raphinha deal, they want to pay the transfer fee starting from January 2023 in case it cannot register this midfielder to play in La Liga from the summer of 2022. Leeds has no reason no reason to do so, but also added a clause to fine Barca 10 million USD if not paying the fee on time.

Not only Leeds, two other teams also have a similar penalty clause if they sell players to Barca. Transfer fees are often paid in installments, and these teams doubt Barca’s liquidity in the long term.

Laporta will also discuss with La Liga in the near future, to find out how to relax the regulations on player registration with Barca. Anyway, La Liga without Barca will significantly reduce the level of attractiveness. “Hopefully La Liga sees the same situation as we do, and doesn’t stop Barca from registering players,” Laporta said.

In fact, La Liga has found a way to imitate Barca, when creating a player registration loophole. They allow teams to post young players to a salary group B, and this group will not be counted in the regulation of the salary cap. That means Barca will get rid of the salaries of Pedri, Ansu Fati, Nico Gonzalez or Eric Garcia when signing up with La Liga, even though these four players regularly play for the team.

With Laporta, registering players with La Liga is not as difficult as finding ways to push high-paid players away. “We need a few players to leave Barca right now, but it’s not easy,” he said.

Laporta dined with new owner Chelsea Todd Boehly. He proposed to recruit De Jong, although he still had to wait for approval from coach Thomas Tuchel. Previously, the Dutch midfielder rejected Man Utd because he wanted to play in the Champions League, although Barca had reached an agreement to sell him for $ 77 million to the “Red Devils”. Chelsea may be able to convince De Jong.

A year ago, Depay also accepted a salary reduction to leave Lyon to Barca, where he considered the dream team. But now, Barca is looking to sell the Dutch striker.

As the season approaches, Barca must act more urgently. In January 2022, midfielder Samuel Umtiti agreed to reduce his salary by a quarter so that the team could sign striker Ferran Torres.

This summer, Xavi also told Umtiti, Riqui Puig, Neto, Braithwaite and Oscar Mingueza that they were no longer part of his plans. Barca even texted these players, saying that they could take a longer summer break to arrange for a new destination.

FIFPro will only interfere with the way Barca treat players, if they are directly trusted by the player. To date, no Barca player has contacted FIFPro. Barca carefully dealt with the problem with players who were not part of the plan. They arrange a private training place for the players to ensure that they do not violate the signed contract.

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Laporta (left) receives the help of Perez in his mission to rescue Barca. Photo: RMCF

Barca and Real may be rivals on the pitch, but while the owner of the Camp Nou is in trouble, Real is not afraid to extend a helping hand. Laporta or his counterpart Florentino Perez have the same goal of making a lot of money for the team. If either team disappears, the other team will be significantly affected. In addition, they and Juventus are the three most excited teams with the goal of establishing the Super League, to ensure a larger and more sustainable income in the future.

On July 23, Laporta, Perez and Juventus president Andrea Agnelli had lunch together in Las Vegas. They talk a lot about the Super League, and their relationship with other strong teams in the same league. So far, public opinion has not understood why Roma refused to play a friendly with Barca in the Joan Gamper Cup, and Milan abandoned plans to tour the US with Real, Barca and Juventus. UEFA insists they never interfere in the team’s friendlies plan.

These three clubs all have a common opponent, La Liga and UEFA. A consulting firm close to Perez revealed that he helped Barca earn hundreds of millions of dollars from sponsorship deals and financial leverage in the summer of 2022. In the face of the rise of teams backed by a Middle Eastern country, like Man City or PSG, Barca and Real must hold hands.

Perez and Laporta refer to each other as “frenemies”, rivals but friendly with each other, also for a common purpose. Because if Barca does not die, Real will be easier to live.

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