How Can They Continue to Afford This?
This summer’s transfer window, like every transfer window before it, has had its fair share of drama, unfounded rumors and tension. However, FC Barcelona has been in the middle of it all, which normally would draw attention as the club is retooling itself after the yearlong layoff from Lionel Messi leaving. But wait…isn’t FC Barcelona over €1 billion in debt? Aren’t they having trouble paying their players’ salaries? Why are they allowed to acquire new players if they can’t even pay the ones they already have? Let’s delve into what’s going on and see if this is really permissible or not.
I’ve written quite a bit in the past on Financial Fair Play, how it works, and why it gets violated so easily with virtually zero oversight/punishment. This is yet another case, though this might be among the worst. FC Barcelona have made a number of high-profile signings this year, including Jules Koundé, Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessié, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, and others. This all while being massively in debt. So, how did FC Barcelona make this work? Honestly, it hasn’t and it’s still not done.
In Spain’s La Liga, the process of registering players onto your squad is very regimented, likely the most of Europe’s five biggest leagues (England, Spain, Italy, Germany and France/Portugal). It carries financial requirements on top of whatever was paid for the new acquisition, a practice that has been both hailed and maligned by observers. That said, FC Barcelona started off the transfer window in July with supposedly zero available money. But that changed as they started doing things the club has never seen before.
For one, FC Barcelona sold the naming rights to the Camp Nou for the first time ever, so their home stadium will be known as the “Spotify Camp Nou” for the next three seasons. Also, they’ve sold substantial portions of Barca Studios, the club’s creative arm, to bring in more money. As one of the last remaining fan-owned clubs in Spain (Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao are the others), this is unprecedented. Selling off pieces of the club in order to keep in afloat obviously are desperate measures, and it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this, but it’s akin to selling pieces of the club’s soul.
The problem is that they’ve done all of this damage control, and they still haven’t solved all of their immediate problems. Jules Koundé still hasn’t been registered, but the club is already talking about making moves for other players, like Portuguese international Bernardo Silva, who currently plays for Manchester City. If that’s the case, FC Barcelona wouldn’t only have problems registering Koundé, but Silva as well.
Seriously though, this is quite concerning that this has been left unchecked for so long (the club was effectively bankrupt in March 2021) and FC Barcelona need to rein themselves in. Whether it’ll help them achieve success this season is debatable (good luck dealing with Real Madrid), but is it really worth mortgaging the club’s soul to maybe succeed?