Tuesday, July 5

When will Barcelona vanquish their money woes and return as a major European force?

PETE JENSON: Barcelona’s salary limit will FINALLY leave the negative numbers this month… but with a £1.3BILLION Nou Camp renovation in the works and £331m owed in deferred wages, when will the LaLiga giants return as a major European force?

  • Barcelona have endured a difficult few years due to off-field financial issues 
  • Later in May, their salary limit is finally expected to leave the minus figures
  • But there are plenty of other issues to sort before they return to an even keel 

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When LaLiga calculates new salary limits for its clubs at the end of this month Barcelona will no longer find themselves in the negative.

But despite that imminent piece of good news there are still big challenges ahead with the stadium rebuild meaning they play away from the Camp Nou for at least one season.

Sportsmail looks at the long-term plan, if such a thing is possible in such turbulent times.

It has been a difficult couple of years for Barcelona, but things might be looking up now

It has been a difficult couple of years for Barcelona, but things might be looking up now

It has been a difficult couple of years for Barcelona, but things might be looking up now

Good news incoming then?

Yes. Twice a year LaLiga set salary limits for each club. There is a convoluted calculation which subtracts projected spending on non-football costs from projected income. If a club is going to make a million but has to pay out £500,000 in debt repayments or paying non-football staff, then it’s salary limit is £500,000. 

That’s the over-simplified version. Losses from previous years also have to be factored in. Barcelona’s limit was set at €97m (£83m) last May but the club itself said the losses from the previous board were not €228m (£194m) but €481m (£410m) and so at the start of the year La Liga set their salary limit at -€144m (-£123m). 

They were the only club to be in the minus. This May that figure will go back above zero.

Why has it changed again?

LaLiga has changed the rules so that any losses related to the pandemic can now spread be spread across five years. The club’s sponsorship deal with Spotify for around €280m (£239m) across five years will also help. And so will a deal to sell 49 per cent of the club’s retail subsidiary to global digital sports platform Fanatics for €200m (£170m).

Selling the club shops doesn’t sound great long term?

It will give the club a quick injection of money but yes in the long term just under half of what they make on shirt sales will be going into another company’s pocket. The club also tried but failed to sell off Barca Studios. There is also an ongoing reluctance to accept the CVC deal.

This is the deal that all other clubs in LaLiga have accepted?

Yes all bar Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao. It would bring in 270m (£230m) of immediate cash but Barcelona don’t like the fact that it means they will give up future shares of television revenue – around 10 per cent for the next 50 years. 

Barcelona took out a credit with Goldman Sachs for €595m (£507m) last year preferring it to the CVC option. It’s repayable over 10 years and does not prohibit them also taking the CVC money at a future date if they change their minds. But for now there seems little chance of that.

Barcelona have a £239m deal with Spotify to rename their iconic Nou Camp stadium

Barcelona have a £239m deal with Spotify to rename their iconic Nou Camp stadium

Barcelona have a £239m deal with Spotify to rename their iconic Nou Camp stadium 

All this seems positive and if LaLiga recalculates Barcelona’s salary limit, they can get back in the game this summer with big transfers… can’t they?

There is a difference between Barcelona’s salary limit no longer being in the negative and it being a figure they can realistic stay within. 

In February, Barcelona said the wage bill had been cut by €159m (£135m) but that it was still 40 per cent over and above rivals. It’s hard to sell players if they are on long deals and being paid 40 per cent more than they would earn elsewhere. 

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The wage bill was heading for the €900m (£767m) mark at the end of last season. With Lionel Messi, Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Dembele’s salaries gone, or going in the case of the latter if he doesn’t re-sign, then it’s clear things are moving in the right direction but it remains a problem.

Philippe Coutinho's permanent move to Aston Villa helps Barca balance their wage bill

Philippe Coutinho's permanent move to Aston Villa helps Barca balance their wage bill

Philippe Coutinho’s permanent move to Aston Villa helps Barca balance their wage bill

What’s the solution to the wage bill problem?

Sign players who will play for less and persuade players to defer wages or sign new deals that mean they are paid less in the first few years of the contract – on the understanding that the further into the future we go, the better equipped Barcelona will be to pay them more.

Isn’t that, as they say: kicking the can down the street?

Well Barcelona have no choice. Xavi wanted the club to keep Ousmane Dembele but to come anywhere near what he wanted to be paid they have had to suggest a ‘progressive’ deal. 

No figures have been firmed up yet but the idea is that if he stays on a new four-year deal, for example, he will earn a lot more in the fourth year than the first.

Barca have to offer players like Ousmane Dembele contracts that will see them earn more in the later years of the deal, when the club hopes to be better equipped to pay them

Barca have to offer players like Ousmane Dembele contracts that will see them earn more in the later years of the deal, when the club hopes to be better equipped to pay them

Barca have to offer players like Ousmane Dembele contracts that will see them earn more in the later years of the deal, when the club hopes to be better equipped to pay them

And signing players who will play for less?

Easier said than done. When Xavi was asked about Robert Lewandowski’s age last week, he said it didn’t matter and proof of that was the club signing 39-year-old Dani Alves. 

But comparing the two doesn’t quite work because Alves is Barca’s lowest earner and if Lewandowski arrives he will become one of the top earners on between €8m and €10m net a season.

And deferring money is also ‘kicking the can’?

Yes. Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets deferred wages during the pandemic. Frenkie de Jong, Clement Lenglet and Marc Andre ter Stergen also signed new contracts that amounted to the same thing. But the money has to be paid eventually.

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Pierre Emerick Aubameyang accepted a lower salary in his first season when joined in January on the understanding that the pay goes back up in the second campaign. The club said in February that debt was at £1.3billion and that €389m (£331m) of that was in deferred salary.

Gerard Pique was one of a number of players to defer wages to help Barcelona's cashflow

Gerard Pique was one of a number of players to defer wages to help Barcelona's cashflow

Gerard Pique was one of a number of players to defer wages to help Barcelona’s cashflow 

And there is a new stadium to build…

At a cost of €1.5bn (£1.277bn) in total. In the long term it will start to pay for itself but in the short term Barcelona will have to play the 2023-24 season at the old Olympic Stadium in the city with another financial hit inevitable because of the reduced capacity (from 99,000 to 50,000) and factoring in the costs of bringing the stadium up to the levels required by UEFA to compete in the Champions League. 

By 2025 Barcelona will be back at a fully modernised 105,000 new Camp Nou stadium but they will have to rough it for at least one campaign.

Is 2025 a good target date for the club to be back firmly on an even keel?

Last year, then director general Ferran Reverter,, who has since left the club, said finances would be sorted out in five years, so that would be 2026. But that doesn’t mean the club can standstill in that time. 

They need to stay in the Champions League every season at the very least and reaching the latter stages of a tournament they couldn’t get out of the group stage of in this season, will speed up the financial recovery. 

That will require some investment in the team. It’s a balancing act – enough spending to make the team successful and therefore attractive to sponsors and players, and in receipt of prize money – and not so much so that they fall foul of the spending restrictions they have so spectacularly broken in recent years.

Champions League football is imperative for Barcelona on their road to financial recovery

Champions League football is imperative for Barcelona on their road to financial recovery

Champions League football is imperative for Barcelona on their road to financial recovery 


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