Only a few days remain before La Liga resumes, and FC Barcelona have yet to register its star signings. Among them happens to be former Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who burned bridges to get his “dream” move to the Spotify Camp Nou this summer. Unfortunately for him, Spanish FFP rules mean that Barca cannot add any more players to its wage bill without showing some new revenue or selling players on the open market.
This is where it all gets a little bit shady. We’ve covered the saga of Frenkie de Jong on this blog before, but in case you’ve missed the drama, here’s how it’s been developing:
- Manchester United want to sign FDJ this summer and are willing to pay £85m for him.
- Barca are desperate to get rid of the player because of his deferred wages during the pandemic, which are due to be paid back to him in the coming seasons.
- De Jong reportedly does NOT want a move to Man United (who would?) and prefers to stay in Spain. Barca owe him £17m in back-pay that they do not want to give up. Both sides are at a stalemate.
- Thanks to the Dutchman’s stubbornness, Barcelona have started a media smear campaign against him. Reports strategically leaked to the Spanish media include De Jong’s full salary details, Man United’s offer, and Xavi’s plans to use other midfielders in the player’s place. During preseason, Frenkie was even forced to play center-back for a stint, with the coach publicly asking him to accommodate the club’s demands.
- What are these demands? Either sign for Man United (and give up the £17m owed by Barca) or sign a new contract with a significant wage reduction. Mind you, Frenkie signed this deferred wage contract scheme to HELP Barca during the financial chaos of the pandemic.
- Now, it’s being reported that FC Barcelona could even take legal action against the player for signing an illegal contract. According to the ever-reliable David Ornstein, Barca allege criminal action by the previous board and want Frenkie to annul his contract (with the deferred wages) and return to what he made previously. In practical terms, they are trying to force him to take a pay cut.
This has all been going on while Barca have paid massive fees to sign stars like Raphinha, Lewandowski, and more. In fact, they’re still talking about signing Bernardo Silva from Man City. Both FIFPRO and the Dutch player’s union are keeping a close eye on the De Jong case, worried about possible extortion from the Catalans.
This isn’t even the first time Barca have turned nasty on a player they want gone. Samuel Umtiti was the subject of a severe smear campaign in the Catalan media back when he had no offers to leave the club, and even got booed by the fans at the Camp Nou despite not even playing. Martin Braithwaite was also jeered by their fans after he refused a pay cut to help the club’s finances. The same pattern can be seen with Ousmane Dembele as well.
Barca’s shenanigans with the media don’t stop at their own doorstep. Their president publicly thanked Robert Lewandowski for his disrespectful comments about Bayern prior to leaving the club. Raphinha and Jules Kounde had almost moved to Chelsea before Barca came in and snapped them up. Despite everyone asking the same question, Joan Laporta launched into a defensive tirade against Julian Nagelsmann for questioning the finances of Barca’s summer.
It’s not a good look for any club.
Barcelona are on the brink, and their fans will argue that this kind of ruthless pragmatism by Laporta is merely a product of their precarious financial situation. Blame has been laid at the feet of La Liga chairman Javier Tebas, who has refused to relax the league’s FFP rules despite the pandemic obliterating the revenue of every single Spanish club. Barca aren’t the only team struggling to register players, after all.
However, the question must be asked — is it justified?
The problem with burning bridges
Despite all his wheeling and dealing, Joan Laporta’s tactics have NOT dragged Barcelona out of the gutter. Most of the new signings cannot be registered yet, and the club have already pulled several of its financial “levers” — a term for future club revenue through the Spanish TV deal and Barca merchandising. Basically, they’ve been selling future revenue for money up front.
Their focus has been totally short-term, signing Robert Lewandowski when they already have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Raphinha when they have Memphis Depay and Ferran Torres. Targets like Marcos Alonso and David Azpilicueta are stopgaps, not long-term solutions. Meanwhile, there transfer activities have earned the ire of potential business partners like Chelsea, Manchester United, and Bayern Munich, making future relations more difficult.
Barca may well be successful in the coming season, but what is the endgame here? They keep deferring player wages, but at some point those bills come due. When that happens, they’ll find that they’ve already sold the revenue that they expected to receive. What happens then? More debts? More posturing? No wonder they’re so desperate to sell Frenkie right now.
The biggest problem here is Laporta himself. As a politician, he seems to be prioritizing good personal PR over the long-term health of the club. When all those financial boomerangs circle back round to the one who threw them, Laporta will be long gone, replaced by the next hapless president who will probably blame all his woes on the previous board.
If something like this were happening at my club, I’d be very, VERY concerned.
What would you do if YOUR club behaved like FC Barcelona have this summer?
This poll is closed
Defend them — it’s a tough situation and they need to get out of it.
Protest — No club should be allowed to behave like this.