FC Barcelona makes Messi bigger than club

FC Barcelona has spent a year trying to keep Lionel Messi for the club. Ronald Koeman’s club has now finally succeeded in seducing the Argentine superstar into a new contract, but there is a huge list of conditions attached to it. As a result, Joan Laporta seems to be making the same mistake as his predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu.

FC Barcelona had to deal with a landslide in the Camp Nou stadium less than a year ago. Lionel Messi lost confidence in a Barcelona future full of prizes silver and informed club management that he wanted to take advantage of his transfer-free status as part of his contract. As is known, the club refused to honor that request, after which the Argentine star player resigned himself to a longer stay at FC Barcelona. Under Ronald Koeman, Messi found the feeling for FC Barcelona again. The Argentine star player was again the old, magnificent dribbler who conquered global football over the past ten years, especially in the second part of last season. Messi’s status has in the past sparked debate as to whether the Argentine winger wasn’t bigger than the club. The actions of chairman Joan Laporta now seem to confirm that.

FC Barcelona

The situation of FC Barcelona is now known: the Catalans are struggling with a debt of about one billion euros, which could rise so high due to, among other things, missed (match) income due to the corona crisis. The situation was so bad that the Catalans turned to the Spanish government and La Liga (organization of the competition, ed.) for financial support. The club also received that (state) support, but there were strict conditions attached to it. Conditions that had a direct influence on the selection policy of the Catalans.

The moment FC Barcelona wanted to buy a player from another club, it had to ensure that double the transfer amount spent had already come in with an outgoing transfer. Last season FC Barcelona sold for more than forty million euros to players, and could therefore only take over Sergiño Dest from Ajax for about 20 million euros because it had to do the conditions of the Spanish government and La Liga. The fact that the club could fall into such a deep financial hole means that the Catalans have to implement a cost saving of 200 million euros (!) this season in order to be able to discuss financially healthy business operations in the future.

Messi was the absolute top earner in Camp Nou with a (gross) annual salary of more than a hundred million euros. The club could choose not to renew the Argentine superstar’s contract. However, that was made impossible by Laporta’s election promise: the re-elected chairman made it his mission to keep Messi at the club.

FC Free transfer

Not only Messi’s contract extension was a priority. As expected, the Catalans are targeting players who are out of contracts with other clubs this transfer summer. Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero (both Manchester City) and Memphis Depay (Olympique Lyon) have already been added to the roster for next season. FC Barcelona thus saves high transfer fees and is fortunate that, for example in the case of Memphis, there is understanding for the situation the club is in. The Orange international would even have handed in salary compared to his contract with Olympique Lyon.

There is only one big ‘but’ to this transfer tactic: you actually save nothing. You only spend more money because you bring in players with a million-dollar salary and signing bonus. The only thing FC Barcelona saves with this is a transfer fee that it could not cough up anyway due to the conditions of the Spanish government and La Liga. Now that FC Barcelona’s operating costs are going up rather than being adjusted down, it will be more difficult for FC Barcelona to save the 200 million euros on an annual basis.

Especially when your star player also expires from his contract and you do not reach an agreement before the end date of that agreement. That happened with Messi, which means that the Argentinian is now clubless and, should he indeed sign a new contract, he will also leave for Barcelona as part of ‘FC Transfer Free’. This also means that his salary costs, which are said to be a lot lower than before, are again included in the costs, which are already higher due to the attraction of big names such as Aguero and Memphis.

Messi > FC Barcelona

That means mopping with the tap open in the boardroom of the Camp Nou stadium. The president-elect has no option but to do everything in his power to get Messi to sign that new contract. At the same time, financial space must also be found to place three million contracts in the salary house and even then 200 million euros must be saved on the basis of operational costs. Now that Laporta is betting on two horses, that actually creates the same situation as last summer at FC Barcelona. In fact, it is now not only known that FC Barcelona is in bad financial shape, it is also an open secret that the club has to save 200 million euros, which will seriously undermine Barca’s negotiating position this summer. To illustrate: La Liga has set a salary ceiling of 347 million euros per year, FC Barcelona had a salary house of 671 million euros last year. Half of Messi’s salary saves eighty to fifty million euros, the salary bar is still too high for FC Barcelona.

Barcelona will therefore be forced to sell players such as Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembélé and Miralem Pjanic for a pittance in order to save their millions of salaries. In addition, a large part of the incoming transfer fees have to go to last season’s deferred payments, so that Messi’s contract extension means that FC Barcelona as a club have to take a step back. This does not only make Laporta Messi bigger than the club. The chairman, like his predecessor, makes a financial mess at Barcelona. Because the moment other players have to (again) hand in salary because otherwise no new contract from Messi can be written, you cannot speak of healthy business operations.

POLL: Barcelona should have let Messi go

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