Barcelona’s cash woes have been well documented in recent years, but it’s finally come to a head this week.
The La Liga club’s debt grew to £1.1billion under the stewardship of Josep Maria Bartomeu before the president was eventually forced out of the club.
And his successor Joan Laporta has been left to pick up the pieces.
The Spanish football authorities have finally stepped in and said they need to make savings of over £180million or they will not be able to register their four summer signings, including Sergio Aguero.
To make matters worse, Lionel Messi will not be able to re-sign with the club unless they comply with the league’s financial fair play rules, even if they do manage to strike a deal with the Argentine forward.
Barca are now trying to make cuts any way they can which has led to star names with mega-money deals, like Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, being linked with a move away from the club.
But it’s not that simple – as they’ve seen in previous years with their numerous attempts, and numerous, various, failures, to offload their biggest earners.
Here’s how the current situation impacts Griezmann, Coutinho and, of course, Messi.
Messi contract blow
Lionel Messi is out of contract for the first time since he was 17 after his deal ran out at the end of June.
He is currently on international duty with Argentina and is set to lead his country out in the Copa America final against Brazil on Saturday.
His future was expected to be resolved when the tournament finished and an extension seemed a foregone conclusion.
Laporta hinted an agreement had been reached, but raised eyebrows when he said a ‘fair play’ issue was stopping it from being made official.
He said: “We want him to stay, and Leo wants to stay, it is all well on the way, but the ‘fair play’ issue is still left. “I’d like to tell you he’s staying but at this moment I cannot as we are looking for the best solution for both sides.”
It’s only now that we realise what exactly he was referring to and the gravity of the situation.
Barca were already grappling with the fact Messi was going to have to take a major pay cut, but even if he does agree to that, they won’t be able to register him, just like new signings Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia, Emerson Royal and Aguero.
Griezmann’s defiant stance
If you’re wondering why the French forward’s name has been linked with every club imaginable this week, this is why.
Griezmann is the prime candidate for Barcelona to sell as he would command a hefty transfer fee, as well as getting the club’s highest earner off their wage bill.
The only issue with that is the 30-year-old has made it clear he doesn’t want to leave. He plans to see out his contract in Spain and then finish off his career in the MLS.
This is problematic for Barca as offloading the striker would go a long way in making the desired cuts. They will continue to offer him to clubs, but unless Griezmann’s stance changes, he could be difficult to budge.
Phillipe Coutinho dilemma
Unlike Griezmann, the Brazilian would be open to a change of scenery as his time at the club has been disappointing, to say the least.
Coutinho has struggled to replicate his form at Liverpool and failed to nail down a regular spot in the side, as he was sent out on loan to Bayern Munich the season before last.
It was almost a last chance saloon as he arrived back from his spell in Germany, but his campaign did not go to plan and he was soon back at Camp Nou – with Barca unable to find a club to take him last year.
The 29-year-old had season-ending surgery on his knee in April and it remains to be seen when he will be back to full fitness, which begs the question: Who’s going to entertain signing him now?
Barca are desperate to get his salary off the books, which is equal to Griezmann’s, but the question marks surrounding his recovery are putting teams off.
It’s precisely why they are offering him to clubs for £20m, less than the £37m of add-ons they paid the Reds when he joined in a staggering £142m deal in January 2018.
Coutinho’s quality means there will be those interested in taking them up on their offer, but given his current health status and salary, shifting him may prove extremely difficult once again.
Perhaps Barcelona’s biggest asset – other than Lionel Messi – is Frenkie de Jong, the Netherlands midfielder.
Were it to be posed around Europe that he could be available, there would be no shortage of takers, and you do wonder if Manchester City – with their financial might – haven’t asked whether a deal could be done.
Seemingly though, the Dutchman is one of the few players who is deemed untransferable by the hierarchy, along with Spanish phenom Pedri and Barca’s other brilliant teen, Ansu Fati – currently sidelined through injury.
Samuel Umtiti and Miralem Pjanic can both leave on free transfers, but both have big contracts and it’s not just as easy as pushing them out the door – they’ll both want hefty compensation.
Ousmane Dembele is talented but his injury issues have been a large source of frustration in Catalunya; his contract is up next summer and they either hand him a new deal or try to sell for a cut-price now – but that’s made more difficult by his latest injury.
They’re looking to move on Carles Alena and Martin Braithwaite, but they could be forced to listen to offers for US international Sergino Dest or even Emerson – who they’ve just paid £8million to re-sign from Real Betis – to bring some money through the doors.
After all, the longer they go without Messi being officially re-signed, the more desperate their situation becomes.