Spanish daily tabloid Sport is reporting that La Liga has informed FC Barcelona that their five new signings this summer — including Robert Lewandowski from Bayern Munich — still cannot be registered as the club do not meet financial requirements. The Catalan club should nonetheless be able to successfully conclude their work by the August 31st transfer window deadline, but it’s a matter of how much, and what it will cost them to get there.
The Athletic came out with an in-depth accounting of Barcelona’s financial situation earlier this week. In essence, the Spanish club has fallen on hard times and decided that spending their way out of it — in order to maintain elite-level sporting prospects and Champions League appearances — was the better option over fiscal discipline. There’s a certain logic to the idea of investment over austerity, but for a football club? It’s certainly a gambit.
And it’s a gambit that has involved mortgaging their future to salvage the present. Barcelona have already thrown the gauntlet down via various economic “levers” — break glass in case of emergency — and there’s one big one remaining.
The last lever is the one to which they do not want to resort. Per The Athletic:
Laporta also has approval to sell up to 49 percent of Barcelona’s merchandising and licensing operation, but critics argue this would also represent the club seeking cash in the short term at the expense of the long term.
Or, more figuratively, they have food for today but may starve tomorrow.
There are also still potential outgoings: not only Frenkie de Jong, but Memphis Depay, Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti, and Miralem Pjanić. There’s more screws to twist on Gerard Piqué or even Sergio Busquets with respect to their current salaries.
But as of now, there is no room for a single one of the club’s five new signings: Robert Lewandowski, Joules Koundé, Franck Kessié, Andreas Christensen, and Raphinha; nor two existing players who count as new signings because of when they were extended: Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto.
At issue is La Liga’s financial controls, effectively a salary cap meant to protect the domestic league’s competitive integrity. Barcelona’s wage bill had ballooned in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, and when the revenue shocks dropped it became a serious issue — and it remains so, as the club continue to spend. Only recently have they lost out on Chelsea FC defender César Azplicueta, who has instead extended with the Blues, but they’re still in for Chelsea left-back Marcos Alonso.
Per Sport, FC Barcelona executives have been “holding regular meetings with La Liga for weeks to assess the situation,” and president Joan Laporta has all along maintained that they have done the necessary work to clear the way for the new arrivals.
Indeed, Laporta is quoted in the Athletic as saying: “The message is one of optimism and confidence. We have done operations to be able to do that. I hope our interpretation is the same as La Liga’s and they are not going to block the registration of players.”
Today’s news throws some ice cold water on such displays. It is therefore now “very likely,” per Sport, that Barcelona will have to pull that fourth and final lever, which they can do as soon as next week.
Barcelona’s league season begins on August 13.