The success of Barcelona’s January signings was followed by the release of LaLiga’s financial-fair-play report, in which the Blaugrana were handed a salary limit of -114 million euros. Every other club in the Spanish top flight was given a positive figure. Understandably, fans are asking how, then, Barça were able to make mid-season recruits. One of their new arrivals, Ferran Torres, came with the not insignificant price tag of 55m euros, plus his salary. Were LaLiga’s rules not intended to stop clubs from getting into debt? Weren’t Elche relegated to the second tier after presenting less than convincing accounts? Are Barça getting special treatment?
Save four euros for every one you spend: that's the key
No. There’s an explanation. The financial-fair-play regulations have been fine-tuned over the years. The 18 initial articles have been added to and nuances have been introduced. Article 100 allows a club that is spending too much on its squad to continue to sign players, as long as it can demonstrate a four-euro saving for every one it invests. Before January, Barça lightened their wage bill considerably with the departures of Lionel Messi and Sergio Agüero, Philippe Coutinho's loan move, and the reduction or deferral of the club captains’ sky-high wages. That has kept the Catalans' spending on transfer fees and new salaries to no more than a quarter of what they've managed to save, allowing them to bring players in.
Even when Ferran was bought for 55m? you ask. Yes: he signed a four-and-a-half-year contract, over which the cost of his transfer fee and wages is spread out asymmetrically. Only a ninth of his fee and half of his annual salary go into this season’s books. Dani Alves and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived on a free and Adama Traoré has been signed on loan. By negotiating this balancing act, Barça have managed to strengthen. If LaLiga had allowed them to bend the rules, their league rivals would have shouted blue murder. That said, with the debt they’re in and having deferred so many wage payments, they’ll take at least two years to free themselves of the 4/1 rule, even if they bring in the odd transfer fee. And as for signing Erling Braut Haaland… that’s a pipe dream.