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Scale of Barça debt sends shockwaves through Spanish game


The scale of Barcelona’s debt has sent shockwaves through Spanish football. We knew they weren’t in great shape, but until we saw the figures in black and white, talk of just how bad things were was also put down to the typical pre-election chatter. It certainly explains why interim president Carles Tusquets remarked that it might have been better to let Lionel Messi leave in the summer. The string of improved contracts handed to the Argentine have taken a financial toll on the club, not least because they have also pushed up team-mates’ wages; there are at least seven Barça players who pocket more than Real Madrid’s highest earner. On top of that, we’re in a pandemic that cost the club 330 million euros last year.

Barcelona spend a whopping 85% of their budget on wages

While Barcelona were still banking big bucks in revenue, it was less problematic if they also owed big bucks. But it's a different story if income plummets and you've been living on a financial knife-edge in the way Barça have - a state of affairs which LaLiga, which has been rather less flexible with other clubs, tolerated because of their money-making capacity. This summer they were only allowed to spend 25% of what they saved on squad costs, though, and had to engage in a spot of financial engineering in the Arthur Melo-Miralem Pjanic swap. They have now proved unable to do a deal for Eric García, too. They’re spending 85% of their budget on wages, when the European Club Association recommends 70% at most. While they do up their stadium, Madrid have restricted themselves to 55%.

Blaugrana ill-prepared to cope with the effects of the pandemic

The pandemic affects everyone, of course, but it has hit Barça particularly hard as their city is a major destination for tourists, who flock to the stadium and its VIP boxes, to the club museum, to the official store… The club weren't prepared for this. They blew the 222m-euro Neymar fee on Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé, spending 165m and 145m on the pair, respectively, and giving them similarly crazy salaries - leading their fellow squad members to knock on the president’s door to ask for a raise. By the time the coronavirus came along and brought everything to a halt, Barça’s outgoings had spiralled. Whoever wins the presidential elections will have this mess to deal with, plus Messi’s future and all manner of political tugs-of-war. It would give me pause for thought.