Barcelona have only one route to Mohamed Salah transfer and Liverpool know it

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For the past two years Barcelona have been the sick man of European football.

Having been the transfer market bully for so long, willing to spend whatever it took to deliver the biggest stars to the Nou Camp, the pandemic laid bare the financial situation at the Catalan giants back in 2020, with the true impact demonstrated last year with the reveal that the club were £ 1.35bn in debt, a significant amount of it short-term debt.

Cost cutting measures were put in place including wage deferrals, having to allow club legend and their most marketable asset in Lionel Messi to join Paris Saint-Germain and having to look to the free transfer market. La Liga hit them with a significantly reduced salary cap as a result of their woes and the club had to move pieces around to even register the arrival of Ferran Torres from Manchester City. Torres agreed a £ 47m deal in December of 2021 but it could not be finalized until Barca had managed to recoup money from player sales and the lightening of the load on the wage bill. Torres was able to be registered in January after a number of senior players took pay cuts.

Only last month, Spanish media outlet SPORT reported that Barca were unable to announce the signings of Andreas Christensen from Chelsea and Franck Kessie from AC Milan, both free agent deals, as they would exceed their salary cap limit.

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The optics that a club that was not so long ago able to spend £ 142m on Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool and who for so long had been able to strong arm clubs in the transfer market, were not good. Barcelona fans expect continued success, no matter the issues that exist behind the scenes.

A bumper four-year deal with streaming giant Spotify was announced in March and included the stadium naming rights, with the Catalan club’s famous home to be rebranded as the Spotify Nou Camp. The deal also included front of shirt sponsorship for both the men’s and women’s teams and the overall deal had a value pegged at around £ 230m.

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The deal enabled Barcelona to bring some much needed cash into the club, something that has allowed them to meet some of their short-term debt obligations. It won’t, however, be a game changer for the club in a market where there are elite clubs willing to spend in excess of £ 100m to land their targets, and Barcelona remain forced to look at free transfers.

This week it has been the turn of Liverpool icon Mohamed Salah to be pitched woo by Barcelona. The 29-year-old Egyptian’s contract saga has dragged on for a number of months with the two sides yet to reach an agreement to extend the contract of the Reds talismanic frontman beyond the expiry of his current deal at the end of next season. It has led to questions about what happens next, do Liverpool seek to receive a sum now, do they pay him what he wants to stay, or do they allow him to leave for free next summer?

Barcelona are banking on the latter being the course of action. Xavi’s side have been reported to have offered Salah the chance to join them next summer on a free transfer, in reality it is the only way that they can conceivably land him, and it also requires significant cost cutting on their behalf to make it happen.

Barcelona fans want big signings after an era of Martin Braithwaite and Adama Traore. They want to see the world best grace the Nou Camp turf in the blue and red, and it is up to Barcelona chiefs to try and make that happen, but their financial situation is not something that they can just ignore and spend in the fashion to which they had become accustomed.

They could make a move for Salah now with a cash offer, but they haven’t the funds to complete such a deal and take on the wages that it would take to bring him to the club, wages that even a club in as financially rude health as Liverpool will not take on lightly. They know that making noise around Salah now appeases fans and gives the illusion that they are back among the big players when it comes to the market, and it is those kind of optics that they desperately need right now.

It is a Hail Mary pass from president Joan Laporta, one that requires things happening at both ends. Barcelona are offering a deal that they currently can not finance, banking on them being able to move on enough players and cut enough from the wage bill to make it happen. It keeps the door ajar slightly for them to make a play next summer, something that might be aided by their qualification for next season’s Champions League.

But for a club that had significant cost controls imposed on them by their own league to stop them digging a hole even deeper, pushing the boat out to sign one of the world most feared attackers seems somewhat reckless. But this is Barcelona and the veneer of success and being the biggest and best has to remain. For Liverpool, what is currently just bluster threatens to blow off course negotiations that have been ongoing for months and creates the kind of uncertainty heading into a new season that they really wanted to avoid.

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