Author Sid LoweSpain
Eric Garcia was tied up, they said, but somehow he escaped. Garcia: Okay, Barcelona said. They said. Garcia: It happened, they said. A bit like what they said, Neymar: Okay, Neymar. Now. The Brazilian came almost every day for months, until the day he stopped coming. And then they said he would come anyway. The window closed, but they didn’t stop, they kept going.
You said Lautaro Martinez was coming, too. You may have noticed that he didn’t either. You said the choice was between Neymar and Lautaro, when the reality is Barcelona had no choice and they had neither. They didn’t even have the Memphis Depay. And so on, and so on, and so on. This week it was Garcia, but it was also David Alaba. It was José Gaia and Marcos Alonso. They were candidates, they said.
Which was the right thing to do, to say the least: The candidates on the front page.
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Reading the Catalan sports newspapers El Mundo Deportivo and Sport this week – last week, the week before that and the week before that – it was easy to conjure up another moment of insight from the great philosopher of our time, the man who planned everything. For example, Homer Simpson tells Lisa, sitting at the kitchen table, that the US of A This Morning, in his hands, is the only newspaper in America that isn’t afraid to tell the truth: that everything is fine.
This week Marca made its front page with an account of Barcelona’s financial situation, a headline that can be roughly translated as a bottomless pit. An economic black hole has been created. The situation in Barcelona was, as they say, dramatic. There was a bleed, a coincidence.
Ah, some say of course: it’s Marca, the living embodiment of what Pep Guardiola called the Madrid milk board – the media accusing them of being in the service of Real Madrid and especially their president Florentino Perez. They suspected Marca of having a dance on Barcelona’s grave. Actually, to be a tomb.
They were probably right. That’s what experience teaches us. It should be noted that almost all the major clubs in Europe currently have huge debts. The pandemic has hit everyone hard. It’s also true that few people have noticed Real Madrid’s numbers. While Barcelona’s total debt is €1.173 billion and net debt €488 million, Madrid’s debt is €901 million and €355 million respectively. That’s no small change.
But the figures released discreetly and unexpectedly this week are not invention. They belong to Barcelona. And, well, look at that figure again: 1.173 billion.
Everyone knew Barcelona’s financial situation was bad, and this has been pointed out many times. This is evident from everything that has happened in the last year or so – yes, even before the pandemic. But seeing it in black and white was still pretty shocking, and think about it: The fact that this made headlines in Madrid and not Barcelona is also quite shocking. Just like with Garcia’s possible signature.
And that’s another thing to watch out for: All those headlines, all those stories, all those celebrities who are supposed to be in their way – don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s all made up by the media, that it’s not what they’ve been told or what people want to hear, no matter how much the desire to grab them and scream grows: You. I can’t do it. Legend.
FC Barcelona’s disastrous financial situation threatens the club’s future on the pitch. Albert Llop/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Not everything is rosy: over a billion euros of debt; salaries represent 74% of the budget; a short-term debt of 720 million 8 million 186 million euros of depreciation; a loss of 488 million euros in 2019-2020; the need to somehow raise almost 200 million euros this summer alone; a negative working capital of 602 million euros; a long list of players to be paid.
The list of players is sinister, by the way: €40m for Philippe Coutinho, €48m for Franky de Jong, €9.8m for Francisco Trincao, €52m for Miralem Pjanic (who only came for financial reasons), €8m for Arthur (the guy they sold when they signed Pjanic to put the books in order), €6m for Emerson (who isn’t here yet), €10.14m for Malcolm (who left). They still have debts to Bayern Munich for Arturo Vidal and to Eibar for Marc Cucurella, etc.
Yes, they also owe 46 million to other clubs, although, imagine if they didn’t, they’d owe 126 million.
Carlos Tusketts – an interim president who doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about playing the interim game – said this week that he was in favor of signing Garcia now. Ronald Koeman too. Tusketz has therefore coordinated the presidential candidates – Victor Font, Toni Freixa and Joan Laporta, with the club’s presidential election on the 7th. March – in advance, as the club’s financial situation does not allow such decisions to be taken lightly. (To be fair, the Tusket shouldn’t take them at all).
The fight is over. Font said yes, Freixa said contract him now but for next season if he is available, Laporta said no. Tusquite and Laporta exchanged letters expressing their displeasure that the election had been changed from the originally scheduled date of 24. January has been postponed. But beyond that, there’s something very simple:
Garcia is valued at €3 million, plus possibly another €3 million. It will cost Barcelona only 230,000 euros in this year’s budget, Tusket said. But now it looks like that’s not going to happen.
If you take out the other elements – if the president was going to sign somebody, how can he propose a deal where payments are deferred if that’s part of what got them into this mess in the first place, the interests of every candidate, why would they spend six million in six months on a 20-year-old defender that they’re going to have anyway – and that’s what it comes down to: Barcelona cannot contract a player for 230,000 euros.
The new president will have to restructure his debt. It may have to find new ones to ensure stability in the short term. They’re going… again… to banks and mutual funds. This summer they will have to sell – more securities – and sell big. But if there’s one thing that makes it hard, it’s… and everybody knows it. It can be hard enough to save your wages, let alone get your money back. You’ve been here before.
Shaka Hislop marvelled at Pedri’s rise to Barcelona, where the 18-year-old will be on the pitch in 2021.
As one cop said last summer: If I were a big European club, I’d wait until Barcelona’s bills were paid and then make a ridiculously small bid for my players; they’d have almost no choice but to cave. Nelson Semedo brought in 40 million euros, it’s true, but Vidal, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez, they all left; Barcelona only won 1.5 million euros ahead of schedule. Coutinho didn’t run away at all. Like Lionel Messi. Economically, he would have been fine with that, Tusket admitted.
They’re going to try again with Coutinho. Antoine Griezmann too, maybe Ousmane Dembele. In short, anyone they can. But if the good news is the quality of the new generation – any club would love to have De Jong, Pedri, Ansu Fati, Ronald Araujo, Sergino Desta – it won’t be easy. And attracting players will be even harder. Just like last year: no Lautaro, no Depay, no Neymar.
As Messi said: How are they going to pay for that? How can you buy Neymar when you’re already asking 230,000 euros? How serious does the situation have to be?
Bad? That’s all right.