La Liga chiefs have told Barcelona that they face a summer transfer ban unless they raise a substantial amount of money from player sales first. And even if they do that, the amount of money they can spend is strictly limited.
This contradicts a recent statement from club president Joan Laporta, in which he indicated that the club was in a good position, promised to trim the wage bill, and pledged that no player sales were required.
Barcelona’s perilous financial position
Barcelona’s financial problems are well documented, having incurred debts of close to £1 billion under the presidency of Laporta’s predecessor, Josep Maria Bartomeu.
By the time that Bartomeu was forced out after a series of scandals, the club was technically bankrupt and teetering on the brink of administration.
Despite that, the club was able to fund a substantial transfer splurge last summer, signing the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Koundé, and Franck Kessie , triggering what they termed as “economic levers”.
Essentially, this was selling part of future revenues from broadcasting and merchandising to third parties.
They have also tried to renegotiate the terms of some of their debt, which remains on the balance sheet at close to £100 billion.
However, their finances have been dealt a further blow with the loss of money from European competitions. Already out of the Champions League, they were knocked out of the Europa League by Manchester United last week, making this the first year since 1998/1999 that they have not made the last 16 of one of Europe’s major competitions.
There is also the issue of wage deferrals that were negotiated during the pandemic. Highly-paid players like Frenkie de Jong have previously indicated that they will not agree to be sold unless they are paid what is due to them with the sums totalling millions.
Spanish Financial Fair Play
La Liga has its own spending limits and Barcelona have long been warned that they are on the verge of breaking theirs.
And now they have been given a stark message by the league president Javier Tebas. He noted that whilst they found ingenious ways to raise money last summer, such options were not open to them this time round.
Unless they raise a minimum of £177 million from player sales first, they will not be allowed to enter the transfer market at all this summer. And even if they do so, the maximum they can spend is £71 million – essentially 40% of what they bring in through the door.
There are a number of players on their books who are of interest to other clubs, with de Jong and Ansu Fati among them. However, the League’s ultimatum has done nothing to strengthen their hand when it comes to potential negotiations.
Clubs interested in buying players can drive a hard bargain, knowing that Barcelona need the money.
Laporta has previously accused Tebas of trying to damage the reputation of the club after revelations that Barcelona had paid sums in excess of £7 million to a company owned by José Maria Enriquez Negreira, who was vice president of the Spanish referees’ committee at the time over a period stretching back to 2003.
Whilst Barcelona insist that the money was paid for technical advice, some have described it as Spain’s version of Calciopoli, the scandal that saw Juventus stripped of Serie A titles and relegated and several other Italian clubs sanctioned.
The matter is currently in the hands of the judicial authorities, although the club is unlikely to face any sporting penalties. That is because a new law in Spain has introduced a statute of limitations for such offences to three years.
Better news on the pitch
There was better news on the pitch though for the team on Thursday night as they won the first leg of their Copa del Rey semi-final away at their hated rivals Real Madrid.
A solitary own goal on the night was enough to give them a precious lead to take back from the home leg at the Camp no on April 5th.
And with his side seven points clear of Real at the top of the league table, manager Xavi will be increasingly hopeful of completing a league and cup double this season.
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