The salary cap, Barça's toothache

The club will have to save around 200 million between salaries and amortisations to comply with league regulations

5 min
Joan Laporta converses with Rafa Yuste in the course of the assembly of Barça's compromisarios.

BarcelonaThe thesis that all Barça's financial problems would be solved the day Messi ceased to be a player, due to the astronomical amount of money he was earning in salary, had become part of the popular imagination. Now the rosarino footballer will renew, and he will do so at a reduced rate, and even so the decision to have packed his bags would have been insufficient to cover up the embarrassments of the Barça treasury. Between the inherited contracts and the drop in income, the club will have to save around 200 million between salaries and amortisations before the end of the transfer market, if it does not want to exceed the salary limit set by La Liga. The figure, advanced by RAC1, confirms that one of the most intense summers in recent years is expected in the offices of Aristides Maillol, especially to sell players who are paid more and who do not fit into the plans of the technical secretariat.

The salary cap was an invention by Javier Tebas to prevent more football clubs from disappearing as a result of poor financial management. When the lawyer became president of La Liga in 2013, he established a mandatory regulation - which would later be approved by all clubs - that set the maximum that an entity could spend on salaries and depreciation of sports staff. Basically, the annual tab plus the proportional part of what their transfer had cost. Broadly speaking, this limit is obtained by subtracting the non-sporting expenses from the total income of the profit and loss account. It is the clubs who propose it to the League and, finally, the validation body gives the go-ahead to "guarantee its financial stability".

Messi and ten more.

So far Barça had never had problems with this salary cap. On the contrary. It was, together with Real Madrid, the club that could spend more and in 2019 led the ranking with 671 million (Madrid, 641). But then came the covid crisis, the income tap was closed and the astronomical expenses remained. The numbers are more than obvious. Last season the salary cap plummeted. Especially in the Barça, where it fell 43% to 383 million, 288 less in just one year. In contrast, in Real Madrid it only fell by 22% to 469 (122 less). The difference is explained, first, by the losses of the first year of the pandemic (about 100 million in the Camp Nou, while in Madrid they even earned 0.2). It was Barça who suffered the most because, with the stadiums closed, the club was left without a source of income that accounted for 30% of its annual turnover, about 300 million. The calculations for this season have yet to be closed, but initial estimates indicate an even lower salary cap. Barça has to get rid of the most expensive players. Otherwise, it is exposed to a Liga sanction similar to that already suffered from the UEFA a few years ago: not being able to register players for the championship.

Tebas, inflexible

"Barça, with the wage bill they have today, are overstretched. In order to sign Messi they will have to make cuts. They have to make a significant effort to reduce their wage bill in order to add the signings that have already been agreed. They are already working on it, they have explained it to us and we are confident that they will be able to do it", explained Javier Tebas this week during the presentation of La Liga's economic report. The same Tebas confirmed to ARA that he is keeping a close eye on what is happening in the Camp Nou offices in terms of signings and departures, but warned that, despite Laporta's request - the Barça president asked the league to be "reasonable" with the situation - there would be no favourable treatment: "They already know the rules".

Javier Tebas, La Liga president

However, the League has given, as it did last season, a little breathing space to the clubs so that not everything involves cuts and so that they can also incorporate some players to reinforce their squad. This is the 25% rule, which was already applied to clubs when they were relegated to the second division, but which has now been standardised for all squads on an exceptional basis. Basically, for every 100 you save, you get a bonus to spend 25. In this way, if Barça cut 100 million from the wage bill, they can spend an additional 25 million. At this point, Messi's renewal, even if it is a downward one, is not interpreted as a salary reduction because his contract was already up this summer. The 10th's renewal, moreover, has been surgical in order to adapt from top to bottom to the maximum that the club could afford. For example, as the journalist Miguel Rico explained, he had been offered a one-year deal plus another year, automatically renewing his contract with Barça (1+1), but in the end they agreed on two consecutive years at the Camp Nou. Afterwards, the player will go to the United States, but he will maintain a link with Barça and will continue to be paid by the club for three more years. A contractual delay so that he ends up receiving the same salary but in the long term.

An intense summer

Beyond the financial engineering that has been used with Messi, the low-cost signings or the low-cost renewals that end up being made, for the moment Barça is well above this limit and in the offices they know that, despite the efforts to negotiate new contracts and low-cost renewals, it will be "very difficult" to meet what is being asked for. At the club, they know that the main problem is this summer, because of the inherited contracts and because the level of income is still at a minimum. On the other hand, they believe that from next season, with the new sporting and economic planning - made by Mateu Alemany as head of sport, Ferran Reverter as CEO and Eduard Romeu as economic vice-president - and with the new scenario that arises thanks to the reopening of the Camp Nou, they can be optimistic about a gradual return to the normality of before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the door of the locker room must be opened. However, the problem is that footballers do not seem very willing to pack their bags and leave Barcelona. One of the best known cases is that of Antoine Griezmann, whom the club would like to sell, but the player has already made it known through his representative that he has no intention of leaving. Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite and Junior Firpo are also on the transfer list, as well as Jordi Alba, the first sacred cow who has been invited to leave. On the other hand, Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembélé, also transferable, eat on another table because they are injured and with these conditions Barça know they can't find a way out for them. At this point, Dembélé's injury at the European Championship was particularly frustrating for the club as he is one of the highest paid players in the dressing room and has a market price of around 50 million. Barça were counting on being able to sell him this summer (he only has one year left on his contract) or else renew him at a low price to sell him at a later date. At the moment, everything has been stopped.