New manager, Lionel Messi saga, missed targets and transfers: 8 weeks of chaos at Barcelona
8 weeks have passed since the humiliation against Bayern Munich and what has been a miserable period for everyone associated with the historic club.
If one is looking for a script, laden with stars, villains and an edge-of-the-seat plot, to be converted into a drama movie, look no further than FC Barcelona's summer. eight weeks have passed since the humiliation against Bayern Munich and what has been a miserable period for everyone associated with the historic club.
If you've been living under a rock, here's a quick synopsis: a new manager was appointed while the previous one wasn't legally gone; the equivalent of sporting director left (again); the club's greatest player ever wanted to leave but stayed; player with 198 club goals left in unceremonious fashion and financial records showed a massive 488 million euro debt.
“It has been a long time since there has been a project or anything at all. They are always juggling and plugging gaps.”
Lionel Messi's explosive interview at the end of a tiff says it all. At an institutional level, Barcelona have been chaotic for quite a few years and decisions have been taken that have put the club's finances in disarray.
Since 2014, when Josep Maria Bartomeu replaced Sandro Rosell as club president, Andoni Zubizarreta, Carles Puyol, Albert Soler, Raul Sanllehi, Ariedo Braida, Robert Fernandez, Jose Segura, Abidal and now Ramos Planes have held the sporting director's job in some form or the other.
Essentially, the role of the sporting director is to work as the liaison between the hierarchy and the manager in player signings. Financially, the club have spent 1.68 billion euros on transfers in the last decade and recovered 944 million euros in player sales. A net outlay of 738 million euros on player signings alone. Bear in mind, the earning column includes Neymar who joined PSG for a staggering 222 million euros. But it also features Philippe Coutinho (160 million euros), Ousmane Dembele (105 million euros) and Antoine Griezmann (120 million euros) who had come in as replacements.
But the bigger issue is with the salaries being paid. The financial results for 2019/20 indicate the club spent 636 million in salaries across sporting entities with football's first team the biggest earner. The highest earner? Messi who reportedly pockets 100 million euros a year. In domino effect, the senior members of the squad — Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets — also earned big paychecks.
If Barcelona's financial position was precarious earlier, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a bigger blow. The club reported revenue of 855 million euros as against the projected 1047 million. Additionally, the club expected profits of 11 million euros but end up reporting losses of 97 million euros. The pandemic resulted in the Catalans reporting revenue drops from stadium closure, stores closed, museum/stadium tours, meeting and events at Camp Nou, TV rights, sponsorships and transfers.
This lack of financial stability showed in the transfer window. Arthur, 24, joined Juventus for Miralem Pjanic, 30, in net 12 million profit. The same process was followed in bringing in Sergiño Dest from Ajax with Nelson Semedo joining Wolves for a blockbuster 30 million euros.
Francisco Trincão, Matheus Fernandes and Pedri joined but the signings were made before the pandemic struck. Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Luis Suarez left for Sevilla, Inter Milan, Atletico Madrid respectively which didn't bring much into the bank but helped reduce the wage bill.
Suarez, who won four league titles, four cups, a Champions League at Barcelona in six seasons, left for free (6 million in variables). The club allowed the Uruguayan to discuss his future with all clubs except Real Madrid, Manchester City and PSG, reported The Guardian. When the move to Juventus fell apart, Suarez reached an agreement with Atletico Madrid. Realising their third highest scorer could join a potential title rival, the club tried to back out but needed the player off the books. Eventually, as a face saving measure, the clause for variables was added.
On deadline day, club hoped to bring in Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia but with Dembele's reported move to Manchester United failing, the other moves were also stopped. Dutchman Depay was a wanted man for manager Ronald Koeman but not even the loan deal of Rafinha could engineer the move.
On the managerial front, Koeman replaced Quique Setien. The former Barca manager ended up suing the club for not honouring the terms of his contract. In order for Barcelona to appoint Koeman as manager for 2020-21 season, they had to settle Setien's contract.
But nothing captures the drama, mayhem and disorder at Camp Nou more than the manner in which the Messi case was handled. The Argentine wished to leave the club for free, as allowed by his contract, but was not allowed to do so. The Blaugrana demanded his potential suitors pay the massive 700 million release clause to sign him. In the end, the board prevailed but not without a huge PR blowback and more importantly, having soured relations further with the best-ever.
Bartomeu offered to resign if Messi acknowledged he was the problem. What Messi did, however, was throw the kitchen sink at the board members who face elections next year. It has been a turbulent and scandalous few years for the club but this summer has seen one low after another.
"You deserved to be sent off as what you are: one of the most important players in the history of the club. And not to be fired in the way they did it. The truth is that at this point nothing surprises me anymore," wrote Messi in a goodbye Instagram post for Suarez.
With one key player gone and another waiting for the contract to be up, this has been a challenging couple of few weeks for Barcelona fans. At least now they can shift their attention to the pitch.
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"These 'underground' projects only look good when drafted at a bar at five o'clock in the morning," said LaLiga president Javier Tebas.
Messi, a record six-time winner of the Ballon d'Or, has won everything in the club game with Barcelona several times over but his international trophy cabinet looks bare in comparison.
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