The financial situation at FC Barcelona is so dire that it is beginning to affect them on the pitch, too.
La Liga auditors have seen through the Catalan giants’ attempts to cook their books with a series of shady commercial deals, and have told the club they will not be allowed to register their new signings until further costs are cut.
All of which means that the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen and Raphinha will not be allowed to make their debuts this weekend against Real Vallecano – unless other players are sold to make way for them.
Barca are trying to work around La Liga’s ultimatum by persuading some of their players to take a pay cut – Gerard Pique has already agreed to take a second hit on his annual salary after agreeing an initial reduction earlier in the summer.
Veterans Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets have also previously agreed to a pay decrease, and the hope for Barcelona is that reshuffling of their finances will be enough to get the green light to register their new signings, who also include Franck Kessie and Jules Kounde.
The dire situation has also left Ousmane Dembele and Sergio Roberto, who were out of contract in the summer but with new deals agreed, in limbo as they can’t currently register as Barcelona players.
It’s believed that Barca chiefs are now hawking a number of their players, including Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay and Samuel Umtiti, in a bid to free up some immediate capital.
What is Going On at Barcelona?
Okay, deep breath. Here’s our stab at trying to break the situation at FC Barcelona down.
The club has been overspending for years, but it’s only after La Liga really began to take financial fair play seriously that they cracked the whip – hence why Barca were essentially forced to get rid of Lionel Messi in August 2021.
But it wasn’t enough, and Barcelona chiefs were forced to undertake a series of commercial deals in a bid to balance the books. Those included the sale of some of their future La Liga TV rights to a third party for around £560 million, as well as shifting 25% of the ownership of Barca Studios – the club’s own media agency.
That sale, as well moving players on and signing a new sponsorship deal with Spotify, raised around £710 million in revenue – enough, so they thought, to overturn their financial fair play deficit.
However, La Liga’s accountants allege that Barca have actually recouped less than the £710 million reported – claiming that the TV rights were sold to investment firm Sixth Street for less than described. The authorities also believe that Barcelona paid around £125 million of their own money to get the deal over the line.
That involved the club setting up their own holding company, Locksley Investments, with the idea that they would essentially buy back the TV rights at a reduced rate in 26 years’ time – but in the meantime inflating the amount of capital raised.
La Liga continue to investigate, although Barcelona president Joan Laporta is adamant the club has acted above board.
“We have worked hard and productively, in order to meet the requirements,” he said. “And if it is necessary to carry out any more operations, we will do it. We are waiting. It is a decision that La Liga must make.”