August 17 – FC Barcelona president Juan Laporta (pictured) has revealed that the club’s debt has risen to a staggering €1.35 billion with the Catalan supremo blaming his predecessor for the unprecedented financial crisis that also led to the departure of talisman Lionel Messi.
At a news conference on Monday, Laporta said the situation was “dramatic” but highlighted that the previous administration of Josep Bartomeu was to blame. The current Barcelona boss accused Bartomeu of “lies” and demanded that Bartomeu and his board be held accountable for spending “too much and at the speed of light”.
“To the initial €617 million debt you have to add €389 million on players, €90 million in litigation, €79 million in advance television rights and €56 million from the [new stadium] project,” explained Laporta. “In total, €1.35 billion.”
The impact of the Covid-19 crisis however remained limited according to Laporta, amounting to just €91 million.
The 15% rise in debts reflects the precarious financial situation of the club across the board. Laporta said his administration needed an €80 million loan from Goldman Sachs when they took over after the March elections to pay player salaries. They also sought credit of €550 million in order to restructure debt. He admitted that Barcelona is effectively bankrupt with the club’s net worth standing at minus €451 million.
Laporta said: “The first thing we had to do when we arrived was to ask Goldman Sachs for a loan of €80 million because, otherwise, we could not pay the salaries. The previous regime was full of lies. Barcelona has a negative net worth of €451 million – it is a terrible inheritance. What has been happening is very worrying.”
“Our salaries represent 103% of the club’s total income. That’s 20% to 25% more than our competitors. We have found ourselves in a difficult situation to renegotiate the players’ contracts.”
Last week lodestar Messi moved to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer, leaving Catalonia after 21 years at the club winning countless trophies. The club could no longer retain the Argentinean – its highest paid player even on a salary reduction – because of its out-of-control wage bill and La Liga financial regulations on total salary levels.
At the weekend Laporta was targeted by some fans during Barcelona’s curtain raiser in the La Liga season against Real Sociedad, with fans arguing that he didn’t do enough to keep Messi, but despite the financial predicament of the club Laporta struck an optimistic tone about the future. He is hopeful Barcelona’s finances can be stabilised with further player salary reductions or deferrals. He said: “We are not scared. The situation is dramatic, but we have good news: the strategic plan based on our credibility and experience, on the assets that Barça have, makes this situation temporary.”
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