FC Barcelona has enjoyed much success on the domestic and European levels in the 21st century. Since the turn of the century, they’ve won 10 La Liga titles, seven Copa Del Rey titles and are four-time UEFA Champions League winners. With players like Andres Iniesta, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Carles Puyol, and Lionel Messi who have donned the world-renowned Blaugrana colors, Barcelona has become one of the biggest teams in the world. Being one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world means that the expectations are high every season and in turn need to spend a lot on wages and transfers to bring in top players.
A club like Barcelona has no problem attracting top-tier talent, but being able to pay that top talent has been a bit of an issue for the club since the pandemic. If we go back to last summer, Barcelona lost out on arguably the best player to ever play for the club, Lionel Messi, due to financial problems. Barcelona was unable to register Messi due to La Liga’s financial fair play system, which is similar to a salary cap in American sports. Even with a 50% pay cut, which is the most allowed by Spanish law, Barcelona would have been unable to keep Messi. After 21 years at the club, Messi was forced to leave Barcelona due to the poor financial management by the club. Of course, Barcelona had a hard time finding someone to fill the boots of Messi. They had trouble registering the few players they were able to bring in last summer like Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, and Eric Garcia.
It is reported that the club is in debt of over €1 billion, with it being reported that their salary limit is €-144 million. What does it mean when it’s negative? Well, this means Barcelona cannot spend any more money on a player until they get that number to 0. To help get that number to 0, Barcelona recently leveraged their future for the present. They sold 10% of their TV rights to US investment firm Sixth Street Partners for €207.5 million for 25 years. This was done after Barcelona members voted to sell up to 25% of their La Liga rights along with voting to sell 49.9% of Barca Licensing and Merchandising (BLM). No deal has been struck for the BLM arm of the club, but I’m sure Barcelona is looking for deals to help their debt problem. Along with that, Barca recently signed a partnership deal with Spotify. This deal has been pegged by various sources at 4 years, €280 million for Spotify to be the main sponsor of the club, with Barcelona also handing over the naming rights to their stadium. The world-famous Camp Nou will now be Spotify Camp Nou. With these two deals alongside long-time Barcelona players like Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets taking pay cuts, it’s helped Barcelona try to get out of debt.
With this newfound money, Barca has spent over €100 million this summer on Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha, while also being linked to Jules Kounde and Bernardo Silva. They are looking to offload their star midfielder, Frenkie De Jong, to try to offset the amount they’ve spent this summer. Fabrizio Romano has said that the deal between Barcelona and Manchester United is agreed upon at €75 million with €10 million in add-ons. The most intriguing part about this potential deal is that Frenkie De Jong is supposedly owed €17 million by Barca due to pay cuts he took during the pandemic to help the club’s dire financial situation.
Barcelona still owe one of their best players €17 million but are able to sign two players for over €100 million in transfers? It looks like others in the footballing world are not understanding this either as Bayern Munich coach, Julian Nagelsmann, told Bild reporter Tobi Altschäffl, “Barcelona, the only club that has no money but then… buys every player they want.” This could stem from Nagelsmann being upset that their talisman striker, Lewandowski, was sold to Barcelona from Bayern Munich, but makes a fair comment in questioning how Barcelona is able to afford these players. Barcelona has been in financial trouble since the pandemic started, yet here they are spending a lot of money on two players so far, with others being linked to the club. Whether they will be able to register all of these players is key, as they haven’t been able to register their free signings this summer in Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen.
Of course, Barcelona is spending to try to get them back to competing for multiple trophies. If their money problems persist, they will have trouble keeping up with the state-owned clubs and clubs like Chelsea and Real Madrid. These are clubs that constantly spend to try to improve their squad and give the club squad depth with the multiple competitions they play in every season. If Barcelona is able to register all of their new signings, they will have a strong team filled with depth to compete on all fronts. It’ll be interesting to see if they go after more players this summer and if they’re able to continue to spend like this in the next few summers.
Greg Termolle is a 3L at the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University. You can follow him on Twitter at @GregTerm.