Barcelona remain in crisis despite Lionel Messi's exit

Barcelona remain in crisis despite Lionel Messi's exit

Allowing Lionel Messi to leave has not solved Barcelona's huge financial problems.

They will still need to take drastic action over the coming days to be able to register new signings ahead of the season that begins on Friday, and over the coming weeks to avoid having to give up their special status as one of Spain's four member-owned clubs.

One member of the commission on the club's proposed stadium renovation has already quit.

Jaume Llopis said the club never really tried to keep Messi, bemoaned the fact that the wage bill was still 95 per cent of projected revenue and questioned whether new signing Memphis Depay could even be registered to start the campaign.

The special status problem is an even bigger shadow on the horizon.

In 1990 such was the financial state of Spain's football clubs that they were all instructed to become public limited sports companies. Barcelona, along with Real Madrid, Osasuna and Athletic Bilbao were exempt and allowed to continue as non-commercial sports associations.

The big difference is that members run the four exempt clubs but there can be no private ownership – no rich benefactor.

Barcelona will do everything possible to avoid having to give up the special status but president Joan Laporta has already underlined just how serious the situation is despite Messi's departure.

The club last season recorded losses of €487million £412m) and still has to service a debt of €1,17bn (£1bn). Although supporters are being allowed back into stadiums for the new season capacity limits have been set at 40 per cent for the first month.

The club's shirt sponsorship deal with Rakuten ends next year and their Nike agreement ends in 2023. If they are renewed they will be renewed for less money – an obvious repercussion of losing Messi.

Players are still being urged to make further pay sacrifices in line with the 50 per cent cut that Messi said he was prepared to make.

And there is still hope that money can be raised in the transfer market to bring the wage bill back down to the 65-70 per cent that is considered financially healthy.

Antoine Griezmann was close to a move to Atletico Madrid three weeks ago but the deal fell through because Atletico were not willing to match his Barcelona wages.

Big earners on long deals are proving almost impossible to shift.

Both Samuel Umtiti and Philippe Coutinho, two examples of that group, were whistled by spectators at Barcelona's final pre-season friendly on Sunday. Even club stalwart Jordi Alba was jeered.

He has been promoted to fourth captain at the club but some Barcelona supporters, unhappy that Coutinho and Umiti have not moved elsewhere, are also unhappy with the new contract Alba signed under the previous president.

Sergio Aguero missed that season curtain raiser and will now miss the first three months of the season injured. His future is in doubt with the possibility that he leaves before he plays for the club.

It may suit neither the player nor the club that he stays having been brought in to appease his pal Messi. Barcelona will want money for him but having arrived on a free he will want to leave the same way if he goes.

Laporta had identified two possible routes to bring in an immediate cash injection without selling players but both have led to nothing.

First he hitched his wagon to the subsequently derailed European Super League gravy train. He met with Real Madrid president Florentino Perez and Juventus president Andrea Agnelli on Saturday but while those three clubs stand alone there is little they can do to breath new life into their cash cow.

Option two was the agreement between LaLiga and the US investment fund CVC worth €2.7bn (£2.3bn).

The money would have been distributed between the clubs in Spain's top two divisions with Barcelona receiving around €280m (£240m)  – €42m (£36m) of which they would have to spend on debt restructuring, €199m £169m) on the redevelopment of the Nou Camp, and €42m (£36m) on players.

But Laporta ended up rejecting the deal because it meant giving up 10 per cent of the money made on television rights, to the investors, for the next 40 years.

There have been suggestions that one long-term condition of investment funds putting their money in to LaLiga or a European Super League is that all the clubs are private entities that allow private ownership.

Barcelona are also trying to sell off 'Barca corporate' a package of sections of the club including Barca Studios, the club's academy, Barca Innovation Hub, and Barca licensing. There are suggestions there are offers in excess of €200m (£170m) for this package but they have not yet been properly reviewed by the incoming board.

The one area where the club would have no problem selling players but where it would hurt them most is the young players who have emerged over the last two seasons. The highly-rated 18-year-old midfielder Ilaix Moriba is available for well below his €100m (£85m) clause.

Club supporters will accept his departure but selling Ansu Fati and more especially Pedri would be the end of the current board despite the massive interest in both.

Barcelona believe it will not come to that, and that it will not come to relinquishing their special status but they must find new revenue from somewhere.
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