Joan Laporta has always followed Johan Cruyff. Growing up, he cut his hair like Cruyff; During his first tenure at Barcelona, the Dutchman who changed the club and the game was a mentor, ideologue and spiritual leader like no other. And now, in Laporta’s second design, it is still after his death. “Because of everything he taught, Johan is always with me; deep down he still guides us,” says Laporta. Cruyff’s son, Jordi, is the club’s sporting director, and there is a recurring question that Cruyff’s mentors often ask, especially in uncertain times: What will Johan say?
One of Cruyff’s most famous sayings was “money on the pitch, not in the bank”. And that’s the plan, but it’s not that easy. Last Sunday, 83,021 people packed the Camp Nou for the Gamper trophy, Barcelona’s traditional presentation game, and watched a very impressive demolition of Pumas, with optimism flowing again. It was a first, exciting glimpse of a new era and new signings: Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Koundé, Franck Kessié and Andreas Christensen. The problem is that they may not get the second six days when the season starts against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday night.
Including substitutes, Lewandowski cost Barcelona 50 million euros. Koundé’s fee could reach €62.5 million and Raphinha’s total fee should reach around €70 million. There was also the re-signing of Ousmane Dembélé on €16 million plus per season, two weeks after he became a free agent and six months after he was told to leave. Nobody has spent more than Barcelona this summer, and they continue to pursue other signings, including a right back, Marcos Alonso and Bernardo Silva. All this begs the question: how?
How can a club be €1.3 billion in debt, whose salary cap has been set reduced Having lost €144m in March and more than €400m last year, a club described by its directors as “clinically dead” and then “in intensive care”, fielding a team like this?
The short answer is: they can’t, not yet. With 24 hours to go, Barcelona face a race to cut enough wages or offload players, or bring in enough money to comply with La Liga’s financial fair play standards – an automated system that it is preventive rather than punitive. Then Barcelona won’t be allowed to do whatever they want because of the ill-informed complaint – remember Lionel Messi? – La Liga is the strictest control in Europe. According to arrival and departure, a limited salary is set by the league that determines what you can spend on your playing staff, including transfers, salaries and amortizations, and if you don’t comply you simply can’t register in the system.
This way the focus becomes short, while meeting the criteria in every possible way builds the best possible team. Barcelona might get there, even if it’s only with some players, and it’s not long before kick-off against Rayo Vallecano. It’s also just one game – registration is open until the end of August – but the fact that they’ve reached this point shows the problems in their approach, and it’s clear that none of their signings or those with new contracts can play. . against Rayo. Those nine players are waiting.
Barcelona have one goalkeeper, five defenders, six midfielders and four forwards, and they are not the ones they want available, a portrait of the difficulties they face and the risk they take when Laporta tries to start what he mentions. that as a valuable cycle, to extricate Barcelona from the mess he inherited. Others are less confident, worried about the results, doubting that this can really be a long-term solution, or angry at what they see as their shortcomings. At the beginning of the summer, Julian Nagelsmann, the head coach of Bayern Munich, insisted that Barcelona “is the only club in the world that doesn’t have money but then buy all the players they want. It’s a bit strange, a bit crazy. I don’t know how they do it. “
Here’s how, whether it’s a good idea or best implemented is another matter. When Laporta took office last year, one of his first moves was to get a €500 million loan from Goldman Sachs that allowed them to restructure their debt. Then there is what Barcelona call it levers, or lever. It’s a word that has not only entered the lexicon, but has almost entered a kind of football folklore and has eclipsed everything else in the last two months, the summer of imagining Laporta standing in front of a swinging machine, sweating and kicking furiously. at the levers.
There were many of them, there were many signatures. Every time you think definitely Now as it should be, another player has turned and another lever has been pulled. Just when you were sure they couldn’t buy more, they did. And they’re not done yet, or at least they hope.
In essence, drag levers means selling assets, raising cash against future earnings to balance the books. Usually for a football club that means players, but it is not so easy to do when some of the players you are sold are not so keen to go, and so Barcelona has looked elsewhere. The first one palanca came in late June by selling 10% of its La Liga TV rights for the next 25 years to a company called Sixth Street. The second came three weeks later, with another 15% going to Sixth Street for €315 million. At the current value of the TV contract, €166m a year, that means a total of €1867.5m over 25 years – bread for today, hunger for tomorrow, some fear – but Barcelona said that this the contract will bring a capital gain. 667 million euros immediately.
The third palanca At the beginning of August only 24.5% of Barca Studios, the club’s content production company was sold to the crypto company Socios for €100 million. And the fourth planned will go to the investment fund GDA Luma with another 24.5% of Barca Studios for €100 million. As it turned out, the deal was announced on Friday in favor of Orpheus Media, owned by Jaume Roures, whose Mediapro company is La Liga’s broadcast partner. In the assembly of members, the Barcelona board had also authorized the sale of up to 49.9% of the club’s marketing and licensing business, BLM.
All the while, they continued to try to cut costs, with players leaving and salary cuts for those who stayed. Philippe Coutinho, Clemente Lenglet and Oscar Mingueza were among those who left. Samuel Umtiti tries to secure the exit. Pressure was put on Martin Braithwaite and Frenkie de Jong in particular, who was told to quit or accept a 50% pay cut which, with amortisation, would cost Barcelona €30m next year. It already owes €18 million in back payments. There was even a letter from the club informing him that the extension he signed under the previous regime could be part of four renewals they claim are fraudulent – seen by De Jong’s camp as a desperate attempt to arm him. is seen as strong. However, he continues to insist on his desire to continue, even as things turn sour.
When Barcelona presented Koundé, Laporta claimed that, with Spotify also signing a new sponsorship deal worth €70 million per year, Barcelona collected €868 million in just two months. “We think we can record players with everything we’ve done,” he said. “The risk is controlled: we did it to save the club and sign players. I hope we don’t have to pull more legs. If there is a situation that forces us, we will take it into consideration. Interpreting the rules of fair play is complicated. I hope that our interpretation is the same as that of the league”.
It didn’t happen, and so they had to pull more. The league did not accept the account on the first two levers, ruled that Barcelona had used €150 million of their own funds to increase the value of transactions and told them that they had not yet reached the limit where they could freely sign players. First of all, the gap of minus 144 million euros limited salary they were there in March, the last time the numbers were released, and the €560m wage bill they actually had was huge. And there was a crowd increased over the summer. On Friday, the fourth lever was pulled, Roures came to the rescue.
That paperwork needed to be submitted to the league for verification, with no guarantee it would be done in time tomorrow. Barcelona also informed that their calculations showed that they needed €20 million or €30 million to sign up all their players in time for the opening night of the season, and so the meetings continued. everything accelerated towards opening night.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who only arrived in January, could be next. Memphis Depay, who was booked for the opening day last season but could only follow him after Gerard Piqué took a pay cut to bring Barcelona under the cap, and his number 9 shirt was given to Lewandowski. And still De Jong resists.
If there are sales, it is unlikely that they will be completed and cleared in time for Saturday. Meanwhile, Piqué, who is reportedly expected to earn more than €50 million, has come close to agreeing to other cuts, such as Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba.
The clock is ticking, the pressure is on and fans are waiting for the season to start with cash on the field or in the stands.