Economically, Barcelona Is Living On Another Planet

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Precisely what’s passing through the brains of Barcelona’s decision-makers is not entirely clear, but what’s easier to gauge is the widespread surprise at how a club shouldering ten-figure debt is functioning as it is.

Upon us is a make-or-break season for Barcelona, ​​with the Catalans spending handsomely on players in the transfer market. The Blaugrana have already landed flagship signing Robert Lewandowski, plus Raphinha, Franck Kessie and Anders Christensen for over €100 million ($102 million) altogether—despite Kessie and Christensen coming in for free. That’s not even mentioning steep salary costs and the chance that asset Frenkie de Jong stays following weeks of transfer speculation. Nor the prospect of more recruits.

If the additions fail to help Barcelona compete for and win the main prizes, there will be further questions for president Joan Laporta and the board to answer. The heavy investment brings higher pressure, especially with the debt issue.

Debt is not the ultimate problem, however. Hypothetically, Barcelona could pledge yet suspend debt repayments well into the future while shelling out every transfer window. What’s more worrying will be the club’s difficulty in attracting essential revenue if the team fails to dislodge Real Madrid as La Liga’s top team and struggles to become a force in the Champions League again. Spending big is a high-stakes approach, and only one Laporta and sporting director Mateu Alemany seem willing to take. Other indebted super clubs would be more cautious, cutting costs and developing on the pitch year on year.

Barcelona has sold its stadium brand rights to Spotify and has been eyeing other rights sales to raise funds for new players to reverse its fortunes. The problem with this is that it only goes so far. Should next season not pan out as hoped, the club could continue to sell more of itself—such as television rights and merchandise handling—over the coming campaigns to fund more investment. If it doesn’t pay off, the club won’t have the same autonomy to create new money streams as more of its operating shares go to other entities. It would dig an even deeper hole for itself.

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The decision to raise cash injections hints at why Barcelona blocked CVC money to seek business elsewhere. Opposed to the idea alongside Real and Athletic Club, the money—approved by La Liga—could have strengthened its spending strategy moving forward. Believing it can do more, it has sought alternatives, choosing to sell more media rights to Sixth Street in the past week. It’s playing its own game.

Meanwhile, some rumors suggest Barcelona’s spending has not finished yet, with Sevilla’s high-priced Jules Kounde now linked despite Chelsea being his likely destination for some time. Considering what has gone before, it’s hard to rule anything out, even if there are conflicting reports on which side is in pole position for his signature.

The club has already committed and needs the best squad it can get after falling well short to Real—its next preseason opponent in Vegas—last time in La Liga. Yet signing more players won’t solve everything. Teams across Europe often flounder after recruiting in bulk, as players need time to bed in and adapt to a new playing style. That’s the ultimate challenge for Xavi as he prepares a squad that needs to hit the ground running soon, with the US clásico installment a good test ahead of the games that matter most, starting with Real Sociedad in under a month.

Whatever the fallout, it’s telling that Barcelona is playing its rival in Vegas. Matches between the two will occur more frequently outside Spain, with the Super Cup contests now staged in Saudi Arabia. Barcelona is intent on receiving and spending everything it can, maintaining its commercial value but knowing that—if the next campaign doesn’t go to plan—its resources to compete at the top will run out.

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