FC Barcelona are a complete mess right now, although you probably already know that, right?
Barca’s economic woes have been in the news and sports headlines for 18 months now and there has been a ridiculous amount of twists and turns in history.
If you had a hard time following, we don’t blame you. Fortunately, 90min is here to help. Below we’ve compiled a timeline detailing all of the major off-field events that have taken place at Camp Nou in recent times.
Barcelona’s financial problems are self-inflicted. Over the past few years, they’ve ditched some ridiculous transfer fees and handed out big deals with little regard for the consequences.
There are too many missteps to mention, but spending over Â£ 100million on professional Fortnite player Ousmane Dembele and paying similar fees to perennial underachiever Philippe Coutinho were particularly poorly judged gestures.
However, the real key factor in creating the crisis has been Barcelona’s laissez-faire attitude towards player salaries. In addition to the deals signed by these aforementioned signings, the enticing contracts they offered to Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Lionel Messi and even some fringe players have been crippling.
Although Barcelona were horribly run before March 2020, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic has put their problems to the test.
Not only did this take away their receipts, but it also put an end to the city’s football tourism industry.
Immediately after the pandemic, gaming staff quickly accepted a 70% temporary pay cut. They even promised to give up more of their earnings if necessary.
After a smooth start, the relationship between the board and the players broke over the summer.
With Europe emerging from the first wave of the pandemic and La Liga restarting, the initial pay cut agreement has expired. Then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu tried to impose another pay cut, but it was firmly rejected by the players.
It sparked a summer when the board tried to negotiate pay cuts and most failed miserably.
With wage cuts failing to bear fruit, Barcelona have had to find other ways to manipulate their finances.
The 2020 summer transfer window was a prime example with Nelson Semedo, Rafinha and Ivan Rakitic all released. Luis Suarez was also sold to Atletico Madrid – a move that turned Los Rojiblancos into La Liga winners. Well played guys.
The strangest deal of all, however, involved Arthur Melo and Miralem Pjanic. The mechanics of the agreement are too complex to be discussed in detail here. All you really need to know is that the only reason the swap happened is because the two clubs could put their financial woes in touch for another 12 months.
At the start of the 2020/21 season, the majority of Barcelona players remained stubbornly opposed to any pay cut.
Therefore, when Frenkie de Jong, Clement Lenglet, Marc-AndrÃ© ter Stegen and Gerard Pique secretly signed new contracts that included pay cuts, their teammates remained furious.
It was far from the end of the story, however.
After failing to make similar deals with senior players, the much maligned Bartomeu has announced his resignation. It was the perfect example of “jumping before being pushed”.
Although the situation at Barcelona has been concerning for some time, it was still believed that a club of their size would be able to find a way out of their predicament.
This belief started to change in October 2020 when the first reports emerged claiming that Barca faced a genuine threat of bankruptcy unless the situation was rectified.
Remember it came after salary deferrals had already been announced and Bartomeu had resigned.
A few months after announcing his departure, Bartomeu was arrested during a police operation that the media ingeniously invented âBarÃ§agateâ.
The ongoing investigation focuses on accusations that the former president paid a public relations firm to denigrate the reputation of senior Barcelona players on social media. Yes really.
Police are investigating whether Bartomeu paid an inflated price for the service, which would constitute mismanagement – a crime in Spain.
Joan Laporta was elected Barcelona president in March 2021. Relying on a platform of hope and ambition, he easily fended off competition from Victor Font for his second term.
How long would the optimism last? Well, we think you know the answer to this question.
Ah, the Super League, we barely knew you. In the dead of night, 12 elite clubs announced that they were forming a breakaway competition that would have changed (ruined) European football forever.
The plans called for a guaranteed income for the founding member, so cash-strapped Barcelona was all over the place like a rash.
They remained crammed into the bunker alongside Juventus and Real Madrid until the end, even when the other rebel clubs hastily backed out.
It was a PR nightmare for Barcelona and worst of all, the failed plans only made their economic situation worse.
Any normal club in this dire position could have used the summer transfer window to cut their tissue further. However, Barcelona are not a normal club.
Instead, they offered lucrative contracts to Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia. They wanted Georginio Wijnaldum too – only for Paris Saint-Germain to blow them out of the water at the eleventh hour.
The only problem was that these new signings couldn’t be registered as Barcelona couldn’t prove they had the funds to finish the season without a financial collapse. Smooth.
Amid this wave of new signings, Barcelona have continued to insist that a deal for Lionel Messi – whose contract expired at the end of the season – was just a formality.
It turned out to be a lie and a big lie.
In early August, Barca were forced to announce that a new contract was not possible, with Messi saying his tearful farewell to the club he joined as a child.
While the dust is still settling, he flies to the French capital to join PSG.
The reaction to Messi’s departure has been cataclysmic. He highlighted the Barcelona crisis around the world and it didn’t take long for politics to begin.
The fallen Bartomeu kicked off, explaining his version of events in a rambling letter. He has tried to clear himself of all blame, even claiming that the club’s current situation is better than when he took office in 2010.
Back on the pitch, Barcelona were days away from the start of the 2021/22 season and still had not registered their summer signings.
Step forward Gerard Pique, who saved the club’s skin by accepting a pay cut. This freed up enough payroll space for Depay and Garcia to be added to the squad. Exactly how is still clear. Aguero, however, remains unregistered.
Ironically, in Barca’s victory over Real Sociedad on Matchday 1, the hero of the hour opened the scoring by nodding at Depay’s free kick.
On August 16, Laporta held an explosive press conference in which he detailed the full extent of the club’s crisis.
He spent the majority of the time calling Bartomeu’s letter “full of lies” but also made several incredible confessions about Barca’s finances.
Laporta explained that the club have â¬ 1.35 billion in debt and a net worth of minus â¬ 451 million. In addition, the club spent 102% of its total income on player salaries.
He ended the press conference by insisting he had a clever plan to rectify the situation. Presumably he has a magical money tree in his back garden.