Barcelona’s attempts to re-establish themselves as a force in La Liga and the Champions League this season have seen the heavily-indebted Catalans put their futures on the line to allow for a summer spending spree.
A year after being forced to let go of Lionel Messi as 1.35 billion euros ($1.39 billion) in debt hit the club, Barcelona spent 153 million euros in transfer fees alone to strengthen their squad, with Robert Lewandowski became the most notable new arrival.
“This is a really exciting season. Nothing gives me more satisfaction than making all the fans happy,” coach Javi Hernandez said ahead of last weekend’s 6-0 friendly win over Mexican club Pumas UNAM.
“It means winning trophies. This is our main goal.”
After three years of struggle, on and off the pitch, hope returned to the Camp Nou in the summer as president Joan Laporta spoke of an exciting “new era” as the club unveiled Lewandowski as a Barcelona player.
“Euphoria” was the front page headline of the local daily newspaper “Sport” that day.
Even partisan Madrid sports daily Marca admitted Barca were “intimidating” after beating Pumas UNAM last weekend as Lewandowski scored his first goal since joining from Bayern Munich.
However, how Barcelona raised the funds to sign Lewandowski, as well as centre-backs Jules Kunde and Andreas Christensen, AC Milan midfielder Franco Kesi and Leeds United’s Brazilian winger Rafinha, was surprising.
Faced with severe spending restrictions to comply with La Liga’s financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings and, crucially, register new players.
– Pull the levers –
They quickly began selling off assets to make money, using a series of so-called economic “leverages.”
The club has sold 25 percent of its television rights for the next quarter of a century to the American investment company Sixth Street for about 400 million euros.
Barcelona sold 24.5 percent of Barca Studios, which manages the club’s digital business and audiovisual production, to Socios.com for €100 million on August 1, followed by another 25 percent to US investment company GDA Luma for €100 million more.
In a few weeks, the treasury received 600 million euros.
The aim was to clean up the club’s finances, allow for an increase in the salary cap set by La Liga and allow new signings to register for the start of the season.
To top it all off, Barca have signed the biggest sponsorship deal in their history with Spotify, reportedly paying €435 million for the music streaming giant to appear on the club’s shirts and get the rights to the Camp Nou name .
Barcelona therefore look in a good position to become serious title contenders once again as they prepare to host Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Only time will tell if pledging part of the club’s assets in exchange for an immediate influx of cash will bear fruit.
– Is Dae Jong leaving? –
However, Barcelona are still waiting for La Liga to allow them to register their new signings, although they hope to be able to do so in time for the season.
They also hope to further ease their financial woes by cutting payroll.
The Catalans have tried to persuade Frankie de Jong to leave, even suggesting that the contract he signed in 2020 is not legitimate. The Dutch midfielder says he wants to stay.
Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Memphis Depay are also candidates to leave the Camp Nou, with the latter reportedly a Juventus target.
In addition, efforts were made to convince some players, including Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, to accept a pay cut.
Barça’s “economic miracle”, as the press called it, has yet to be turned into a football miracle.