There are only a few days left before La Liga resumes and FC Barcelona have yet to register their star signings. Among them is former Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski, who burned bridges to secure his ‘dream’ transfer to Spotify Camp Nou this summer. Unfortunately for him, Spain’s FFP rules mean Barca can’t add more players to their wage bill without showing new income or selling players on the open market.
This is where it all gets a little sketchy. We’ve covered Frenkie de Jong’s saga before on this blog, but in case you missed the drama, here’s how it developed:
Manchester United want to sign FDJ this summer and are ready to pay £85million for him.
- Barca are desperate to get rid of the player due to his deferred salary during the pandemic which is expected to be paid back to him over the next few seasons.
- De Jong would NOT want to move to Man United (who would?) and would rather stay in Spain. Barca owe him £17m in back wages which they are unwilling to give up. The two sides are at an impasse.
- Thanks to the Dutchman’s stubbornness, Barcelona launched a smear media campaign against him. Reports strategically leaked to Spanish media include full details of De Jong’s salary, Man United’s offer and Xavi’s plans to use other midfielders in place of the player. During pre-season, Frenkie was even forced to play centre-back for a stint, with the coach publicly asking him to meet the club’s demands.
- What are these demands? Either sign for Man United (and give up the £17m owed to Barca) or sign a new deal with a significant pay cut. Mind you, Frenkie signed this deferred salary contract scheme for HELP Barca during the financial chaos of the pandemic.
- Now, it is reported that FC Barcelona may even take legal action against the player for signing an illegal contract. According to the always reliable David Orstein, Barca allege a criminal action from the former board and want Frenkie to cancel his contract (along with the deferred wages) and go back to what he did before. Concretely, they try to force him to accept a pay cut.
This all happened as Barca paid huge fees to sign stars like Raphinha, Lewandowski etc. In fact, they are still talking about signing Bernardo Silva from Man City. FIFPRO and the Dutch players’ union are closely monitoring the De Jong case, worried about possible extortion from the Catalans.
It’s not even the first time Barca have gotten mean to a player they want out. Samuel Umtiti was the subject of a harsh smear campaign in the Catalan media despite having no offer to leave the club, and was even booed by Camp Nou fans despite not even playing not. Martin Braithwaite has also been mocked by their fans after turning down a pay cut to help the club’s finances. The same pattern can also be seen with Ousmane Dembele.
Barca’s shenanigans with the media don’t stop at their doorstep. Their president publicly thanked Robert Lewandowski for his disrespectful comments about Bayern before leaving the club. Raphinha and Jules Kounde had almost moved to Chelsea before Barca arrived and caught up with them. Despite everyone asking the same question, Joan Laporta launched into a defensive tirade against Julian Nagelsmann for questioning Barca’s summer finances.
Not a good look for any club.
Barcelona are on the brink and their fans will say that this kind of ruthless pragmatism from Laporta is just a product of their precarious financial situation. The blame has been thrown at the feet of La Liga president Javier Tebas who refused to relax the league’s FFP rules despite the pandemic wiping out every Spanish club’s revenue. Barca aren’t the only team struggling to register players, after all.
However, the question must be asked: is it justified?
The problem of burning bridges
Despite all his maneuvering and dealing, Joan Laporta’s tactics did NOT pull Barcelona out of the gutter. Most of the new signings cannot yet be registered, and the club have already pulled several of their financial ‘levers’ – a term for the club’s future income through the Spanish TV deal and Barca merchandising. Basically, they sold future earnings for cash up front.
Their focus has been totally short term, signing Robert Lewandowski when they already have Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Raphinha when they have Memphis Depay and Ferran Torres. Targets like Marcos Alonso and David Azpilicueta are palliatives, not long-term solutions. Meanwhile, their transfer activities have drawn the ire of potential business partners like Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, making future relations more difficult.
Barca might do well in the coming season, but what’s the endgame here? They continue to defer player salaries, but at some point those bills come due. When this happens, they find that they have already sold the revenue they expected to receive. What happens then? More debt? More posture? No wonder they’re so desperate to sell Frenkie right now.
The biggest problem here is Laporta himself. As a politician, he seems to prioritize good personal PR over the long-term health of the club. When all those financial boomerangs come back to whoever threw them, Laporta will be long gone, replaced by the next ill-fated president who will likely blame all his misfortunes on the previous board.
If something like this happened at my club, I would be very, VERY worried.
What would you do if YOUR club behaved like FC Barcelona this summer?
Defend them, it’s a difficult situation and they have to get out of it.
Protest – No club should be allowed to behave like this.
1164 total votes