SOCCER

Barcelona is still very clownish

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Frankie De Jong
Photo: Getty Images

If you’ve been sleeping for the last year and a half to two years (and we’re all jealous if you were), last summer probably felt pretty normal in the world of football. The big clubs were all competing against various players from smaller clubs, and Barcelona won most of those races. They beat Chelsea against Robert Lewandowski. They beat…Chelsea to Jules Koundé. They beat…Chelsea to Raphina. They signed Andreas Christensen from…Chelsea. Ok, so it was mostly Barcelona beating Chelsea for signings. But they also signed Franck Kessié from Milan, and there was no indication that Chelsea were interested in him. So the!

There are rumors that they still want Bernardo Silva from Man City or Marcos Alonso from…Chelsea (we or they can’t escape). It all seems to fit over the course of how Barca have operated during the last decade or two.

Unless you haven’t been in hibernation, you know that Barcelona has no money. In fact, they have negative money. This means all the players we mentioned above who have “signed” are not actually recorded. They aren’t officially part of Barcelona’s squad yet, as far as La Liga is concerned. This is curious, given that Barca’s first league game is on Sunday. You would like to have players seven days after your first match. But Barca no. And what they’re doing to try and save them is borderline absurd or something out of the ordinary satirical movie. You can see the smashing cut of press conferences announcing all these signings with fans in the first game wondering where they are and Barca officials denying their existence.

Their latest scheme to circumvent La Liga financial rules and sanctions is to declare Frenkie De Jong’s contract illegal now a foul act by the former Barcelona board, so they can cancel it and bring De Jong back to the contract he had when he first signed in 2019. It’s confusing and silly, but nothing with Barcelona is ever smooth or logical.

The problem extends from the same problem Barca have for two years now, as their income isn’t enough to cover their expenses, so La Liga won’t let them operate like this. As you probably well know now Barça is some $1.42 billion in debt.

Barca tried to remedy this problem this summer by selling up to half of their future licensing arm and a quarter of their TV rights in cash for nearly $600 million. However, this might not be enough for La Liga to sanction the registration of their new signings, and they also need to reduce their wage bill.

A big part of this latest effort has been to completely take De Jong off the books, something they couldn’t do and De Jong doesn’t want to. As we wrote beforeDe Jong postponed his salary during the pandemic to the last two years remaining on his contract at the time, and two more years that were added to the end of it to spread out those payments. We’re in those now, and De Jong owes around $18 million this year and $22 million per season for the next four. One of the main reasons De Jong doesn’t want to go to Manchester United, other than they’re a complete mess with no Champions League football in sight, is that United didn’t want to pay him $108.6m. over the next five years. . De Jong, who volunteered for this temporary pay cut when Barca were struggling during the pandemic, only wants the money he is owed.

So Barca’s latest tactic is to try to declare the contract illegal, throw it out on the previous board and threaten everyone under the sun with legal action in the hope that this will ultimately annoy De Jong and his people enough to accept the offer from Chelsea (where he apparently prefers to leave if he has to leave at all). Not only taking De Jong’s salary off the books, but getting $86m in transfer fees in return, would be awfully nice for Barca’s bean counters at this point, which is clearly game over here.

Was it necessary? Of course not. Barça could have taken their pieces and played the products of their famous La Masia academy for a season or two, find out what they really have, avoid big transfers and big salaries, and put their house in order. It’s unlikely, given the weak nature of La Liga below themselves and Madrid, that they would have even given up the Champions League places, but even if they had they wouldn’t. would not have disbursed the kind of expenses that a Champions League income is required for. Gavi, Pedri, Araujo, Eric Garcia and Nico Gonzalez could have probably kept Barca afloat at worst and gained valuable experience for when Barca meant business going forward.

But that’s not how you win elections to run the club, and that’s not how you stay there once you’ve done it, so you get Joan Laporta channeling her inner Tony Khan and signing everything he can find, whether he has a place for it or not. Or the money or he or not. Time is running out and Barça is running out of TV rights and video production companies for sale. And yet, you can’t escape the feeling that they’ll get away with it, because La Liga won’t let them go bust and take most of the league with them.

The same Barça, the same as ever.

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