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Barcelona’s project already in tatters

Barça sold off assets valued at €865M over the summer and now find themselves up against the ropes in the Champions League. They will lose €20.2M if they are eliminated.

Barcelona’s project already in tatters
Anadolu AgencyGetty

Xavi’s Barça and the club’s economic leveraging find themselves mortally wounded in the Champions League - just a few months after selling club assets for 865 million euros and spending 160 million on new signings. The club stands to lose 20.2 million euros if the team is knocked out of the Champions League at the group stage, although that is the least of it. In such a scenario, they could recover 14.9 million in the Europa League. But thick stick is the sporty one and the one for prestige.

“We have sent a message to the world,” said Jordi Cruyff, in a stunning statement after the team’s 2-0 defeat to Bayern in Munich on Matchday 3. “Get ready everyone because we are back”, proclaimed Laporta months before, on 3 January - two days after announcing, “A new phase that will no longer prolong the degradation of a glorious era”. Laporta bragged to the members during Sunday’s Assembly: “We have saved Barça”.

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Barcelona with it all to do in Europe

But what Barça actually have right now is a project that was doomed from the start. Because it was based on immediate sporting excellence - on winning trophies, a formula that gave way to the famous virtuous circle that Laporta always boasted of in his first term (investment-titles -economic return). What they have is a team mortally wounded in the Champions League and it’s still only October. It’s not that Barca have no chance of reaching the Round of 16. It is still just about possible that they could reach Matchday 6 with options of progressing. Nevertheless, it’s disaster for a club that has mortgaged its assets precisely for the opposite effect.

Barça has sold off assets worth 865 million euros in order to, among other things, invest 160 million euros in signings (Raphinha, Koundé, Lewandowski, Pablo Torre) - not counting the players who arrived on free transfers (Kessié and Christensen) who command large salaries. That, together with the new contracts handed to Dembélé, Araújo, Sergi Roberto and Gavi - on top of those from last season: Ansu and Pedri. Basically, a disaster that director of football, Mateu Alemany has not even been able to unravel, giving way to burdensome players such as Piqué and Jordi Alba. There’s no doubt that Barça’s current directors will be relieved that the Inter match was played three days after the Assembly. If not, it wouldn’t have gone so smoothly, or at least maybe Laporta wouldn’t have come out with his “saving the club” remark.

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As this newspaper reported last week, after the defeat in Milan, Barça is now on the verge of losing up to 52.7 million euros in prize money (9.6 million for making the Round of 16, 10.6 million for reaching the quarter finals, 12.5 million for reaching the semi-finals, 15.5 for being a finalist and 4.5 million for winning the tournament). For a team that has made a spectacular investment (45 million for Lewandowski, 50 more variables for Koundé and 58 million for Raphinha), that is a huge hard blow. The 20.2 million euros to reach the quarter finals were, moreover, included in the club’s budgeting. Barça will only be able to partially recover that outlay if they win the Europa League, where the prize, if they end as champions, amounts to 14.9 million euros - plus an additional 4.5 million if they go on to win the UEFA Super Cup.

And it’s not only a question of money. There is also the matter of sporting prestige - i.e. money in relation to sponsorships, and most importantly of all, knowing that Barça are heading in the right direction. Laporta already expressed his anger with Xavi the other night. When he first came to power, Laporta was patient with his first coach. Frank Rijkaard won nothing in his first season but was kept in office nevertheless. Success followed. But this is another Barça as Laporta himself said in the Assembly. Now, the team cannot afford to go five or six years without winning. Even Koeman delivered a trophy which Laporta celebrated, even though he would later sack the Dutchman. More trouble and strife at Barça...