Revealed: Barcelona’s CRIPPLING financial crisis that may stop Messi re-signing

Martin Macdonald
La Liga Team of the Season, starring Messi and Oblak

Lionel Messi may have agreed a five-year deal to return to Barcelona, but at the moment the Argentine remains in limbo without a club.

The Barcelona superstar's contract at Camp Nou ended at the end of June, meaning that for the first time in his professional career he is a free agent.

Barca fans needn't worry too much about Messi's mindset as he has agreed a new long-term deal to return to the club, albeit on 50% of his previous wages.

The financial situation at the club means that they cannot retain Messi on his previous wages which made him the highest paid player in world football. Instead, Messi would return on half his previous salary, but on a longer contract.

The five-year contract would take the Argentine up until the age of 39, but he is not expected to still be playing in Catalunya at that time.

Instead, even if he moves abroad or retires, he will continue to be paid by the club as an ambassador on player wages.

At the moment, Barcelona are crippled by debts which currently stand at over €1.2 billion.

There are a few factors as to why this has happened, but it is mainly due to losses during the pandemic - coupled with gross mismanagement of transfers and the astronomical wages players have been given over the past few years, particularly in the tenure of exiled former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

What is Barcelona's current financial situation?

At the moment Barcelona are, rather embarrassingly, unable to register any new players signed his summer.

In order to meet new La Liga salary regulations, they must significantly reduce their wage bill and make savings across the board totalling €200m.

Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Emerson Royal and Eric Garcia have all been signed so far, with three of them as free transfers, but until the wage bill is reduced they will not be able to play in La Liga.

Until that happens, Messi will also not be registered as he would technically count as a new player.

As much as €731million of the debt is owed within the next 12 months.

How have they reached this position?

Over the last three seasons, Barcelona have an average transfer spend of €320m, according to the Swiss Ramble.

Spending over the last decade has gone out of control and been scattergun to say the least.

They may have received the biggest transfer fee in history after selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for €220m but much, much more than that was spent on Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho - three players who have arguably been flops at Camp Nou.

According to a report by CIES Football Observatory, the Catalan giants have spent a remarkable €1.17 billion on transfer fees since the summer of 2016. 

Many of these players, crucially, are on extremely high wages.

Griezmann, for example, is currently the third-highest paid player in the world behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, earning a reported €34m a season.

Due to the pandemic, La Liga softened their stance on the wage bill for the 2020/21 season, but for 2021/22 they have warned Barcelona to cut costs.

La Liga president Javier Tebas previously said:

“When a club goes over its salary cap, it can only include players who represent 25% of the savings.

If Barcelona sell a player for €100m, they can only spend €25m. If they want to bring in a player who costs them €25m a season in salary, they must earn €100m, either by transfer or salary reduction.

“Barca are currently exceeding their salary cap. The efforts made to reduce the wage bill are on the right track, but there will not be a special rule for Messi. I hope they can include Messi’s wages, but to do so, they will have to leave out someone else.”

The Swiss Ramble reports that:

"Barcelona football wages fell €58m (12%) from €501m to €443m in 2019/20, , but have still grown by 30% (€103m) in 3 years. Total wages including other sports €487m – €513m including image rights. Budgeted to decrease a further €81m to €362m in 2020/21.

"Not only was Barcelona’s wage bill the highest in Spain, but it was far ahead of other clubs in Europe, especially in 2019 when their €501m was €124m (33%) more than the next highest Manchester United at €377m. Wages surged under former president Josep Maria Bartomeu."