The numbers were shadowing since mid-August, just when Lionel Messi activated the countdown with the shipment of the already world-famous burofax and left the bomb beating in the environment. His desire to leave Barcelona was framed with a delicate moment for the club both managerially and financially.
Time was decanting the panorama. And no matter how much Blaugrana carpet they tried to show, the dirt began to glimpse on the surface. The sporting thing was laid bare: change of coach, another bad pass market and a squad that runs behind in the League and seems not to be up to par in the European field, Messi’s great goal.
Institutionally, Josep Maria Bartomeu, cornered, took a step to the side and left the presidential chair free, on his way to the elections that were to be held on January 24 and were postponed until March 7 due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Spain. In that scenario, the economy detonated: the August numbers have now come to light and face a total debt of more than one billion euros.
Koeman looks askance at Messi with a totally empty Camp Nou behind him. Photo: Joan Monfort, AP.
How to get out of this maze? How to trust that Messi will not choose to run from this mess in search of a more friendly context?
The economic crisis has taken the Catalan team to unexpected places. In Europe they already suggest that one way out would be the inflow of private capital. Can Barsa become an SA? At the moment, it seems unthinkable.
After an assembly with the representatives who will be in charge of carrying out the electoral process, the club officially informed the candidates (Joan Laporta leads the polls against Víctor Font and Toni Freixa) the panorama with which they will find if win the vote: there they detail that the institution’s net debts increased 55.5%, went from 217 million euros in the financial year 2018-2019 to 488 million in the last year.
In the short term, the debt grew by 31%, since it went from 505.5 million to 731 million euros. But in the long term the outlook does not improve, the red number rose 156 million (in relation to the previous balance) and reaches 442 million of the community currency.
Joan Laporta, former president of Barcelona and the main candidate to win the elections, is hoping to convince Messi to stay at the club. Photo: EFE
In this sense, part of the expenses that the club must meet have to do with the payment of fees for the purchases of footballers. For example, he must pay Ajax 48 million euros for the pass from the Dutchman Frenkie de Jong, 30 million to Liverpool for the Brazilian Philippe Coutinho, for whom he will then have to pay another 40 million, and 52 million to Juventus for the arrival of Miralem Pjanic.
About 46.4 million euros must be paid to the Blaugrana box from the sale of players, so the negative balance exceeds 100 million euros.
When the reasons for this economic and financial debacle are analyzed, the outgoing leaders immediately put on the table the effects derived from the coronavirus pandemic, among which the partial restitution of membership subscriptions and the lack of income from tickets for the stadium, museum and other events that the club used to hold and had to be discontinued.
The French Griezmann, one of the most important assets of the Catalan club. Photo: REUTERS
“Is Barcelona bankrupt?” Asks the local newspaper Mundo Deportivo. And he immediately replies no. Although the cost to avoid it is to have real estate assets such as the Camp Nou itself or the grounds of the Sports City.
They also point out that, if necessary, it still has footballers to whom it can put a seductive sales sign such as Griezmann, Coutinho, Dembélé or De Jong.
Although if it is about putting out fires, there is one that no longer depends on the will of the club. Lionel Messi no longer needs to give explanations to take the starting door in June and leave the club of his life without leaving a single euro.
If what currently seems to be an announced departure from Rosario comes to fruition, the club would not obtain an economic profit for its main asset, in addition to the obvious loss of sport that it would generate.
Messi, from a penalty against Valencia. Will you leave the club of your love? Photo: REUTERS
The paradox of all this is that, under these conditions, Barcelona could only sign free players or those who are about to end their contracts. The same situation that could get the most expensive player in his history.