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16 Aug, 2021 13:43

‘The situation is dramatic’: More misery for Barcelona after Messi exit as boss reveals club’s negative net worth has hit $531MN

‘The situation is dramatic’: More misery for Barcelona after Messi exit as boss reveals club’s negative net worth has hit $531MN

The defiant president of Barcelona has admitted that the scale of their debts is "very worrying" , insisted that Lionel Messi's exit was the "right decision" and blamed his predecessor over their legal wrangle with Neymar.

The Spanish contenders' well-publicised vast debt has now soared to a terrifying total of around $1.6 billion, with Joan Laporta, who returned for a second spell as supremo at the Camp Nou earlier this year, revealing that the figures represent a negative net worth for the club of $531 million.

While onlookers called the management of the club a "mess" and fans mocked Barca as "finished", resolute Laporta mustered positivity and admitted the "modus operandi" behind the scenes had "bypassed internal oversight."

"The first thing we did upon arriving at the club was to request an €80 million [$94 million] loan to cover the payroll and the Camp Nou construction work," explained Laporta, speaking to the press on Monday.

"We have found ourselves in a difficult situation to renegotiate the players' contracts.

"Our salaries represent 103 percent of the club's total income. That's 20-to-25 percent more than our competitors.

"We are not going to change the model of this club — the members will always be in charge.

"We have a plan. Our morale is high. I'm full of optimism. If we all work together, it will be very successful."

The most painful consequence of Barcelona's unbalanced books came when they were forced to confirm the departure of Messi – the club's all-time top scorer, considered by many to be their greatest ever player – in a stunning announcement earlier this month.

The Barca legend had agreed a five-year contract extension on reduced terms which could not be completed because of financial rules around spending restrictions in Spanish top flight La Liga.

"The displeasure was huge," said Laporta, reflecting on a sorry saga that saw Messi weep in front of journalists as the talisman tearfully took questions on his reluctant departure before joining Champions League hopefuls Paris Saint-Germain.

"It is understandable. We did not manage to do everything as planned. I still see him with the same esteem. It was a shame it didn't end the way we wanted.

"Leo looks pretty happy in Paris now. It has ended like that. Love stories are never eternal – most don't last as long as that between Leo and Barca.

"We were sure we could renew Messi because we did not yet know the numbers we now know. We had the numbers of the previous budgets.

"We are eternally grateful to Leo. It was a long love affair between him and Barca. We have moved forward the post-Messi era by two years.

"Watching him at PSG brings mixed feelings for all at Barca but we made the right decision – not to put the club in more risk.

"We could still see some space if we sold players and reduced salaries. La Liga also made us a proposal we could not accept."

The president was given a rough ride in the press conference, while long-serving defender Gerard Pique – one of the club's captains – was praised for taking a pay cut that he said he had accepted without hesitation.

Laporta said he was seeking to reduce the salary bill by around $235 million and referred to at least six "lies" he had been told by the club's previous leadership, headed by the widely-derided Josep Bartomeu.

"I left Barca with a plan for the new stadium designed by [top British architect] Norman Foster, ready for 2015. But they have left us with nothing, just holes to fill," he said.

"The club’s economic situation is very worrying and its financial situation is dramatic.

“It’s not true that the club’s salary bill exploded to compete with the state-owned clubs. It was mis-spending the €222m [$270 million] from [selling] Neymar [to PSG for a world-record in 2017], on salaries and amortizations. The transfer policy of the club was just bad.

"He said we had pardoned Neymar €16.5m [around $19.5 million] – another lie. I would remind Bartomeu of all the damage the Neymar deal did to Barca's image.

"There were four open cases with Neymar. We thought it best for Barca's interests to settle and avoid more risks."

Also on rt.com Messi presented to PSG fans again as Parc des Princes goes wild for ex-Barca superstar on matchday (VIDEO)

New signing Sergio Aguero, signed from Abu Dhabi-backed Premier League champions Manchester City, is thought to be one of the stars particularly unhappy at Messi's departure and the likelihood of further pay cuts.

"In [Aguero's] case it is not yet resolved, but we expect other captains to act like Pique," hoped Laporta.

"The squad already reduced salaries due to Covid. Now we ask for a second effort. The first response was a surprise as nobody likes to lower their salary.

"Given the situation, they are starting to understand and we trust we can resolve it as soon as possible with captains, then other players.

"The captains told me they will give their last drop of blood for this team to succeed.

Also on rt.com Pique takes pay cut for new Barcelona players to be registered and is again hailed as boyhood club's future president

"Players have a fixed salary and bonuses for performance and trophies. Some, like Pique, have agreed reductions. Others are contemplating a deferral or a lowering of their bonuses. We are looking for solutions to restructure it all, the whole squad.

"If we free up 100 million [around $118 million], we can spend 25 million [around $18.5 million]. There are players we want to keep, others we don't. We are working on it – the market closes on August the 31st."

Laporta believes that the predicament can be resolved by 2024 at a club which has one of the largest revenues in the world and the largest stadium in Europe, offering potential gate receipts from crowds of almost 100,000.

Barca also retain peripheral huge earners on their books, with the likes of midfield outcast Phillipe Coutinho said to be raking in around $277,000 a week.

"I would predict that in a couple of years the club’s finances will be healthy," said Laporta, who claimed that the club has been set a total salary cap approaching $106 million.

Also on rt.com ‘I don’t know what to say’: Lionel Messi bursts into tears as he confirms Barcelona exit after fans mob him at Camp Nou (VIDEO)

"Barca is not a company which is closing – we are more open than ever. The debts mean we have to keep working; it is a difficult situation but we have the capacity to generate very strong income. We are receiving many proposals from sponsors, which lifts us.

"My spirits now are very good, having seen the team [win] yesterday, and having taken difficult decisions which had to be taken, like Leo. But the club is above all of us.

"The situation is dramatic, but we have good news. Our strategic plan, and the experience we all have, gives us credibility. I am convinced that we will come through this.

"We will use [academy] La Masia, reinforced with top-level players. We do not even think about selling this type of young player.

"If we see that the coach does not count on a player then we work on what can be done.

"I knew it was going to be difficult and it is difficult as the challenge is very big. And the challenge is motivating. I feel strong, and am sure we will bring success."

Laporta's appointment of current City manager Pep Guardiola resulted in a period of immense success during his first spell at the helm, including the swift capture of the Liga title, the Copa del Rey, the Champions League, the Supercopa de Espana and UEFA Super Cup.

The 59-year-old also reiterated Barca's opposition to the proposed new deal between La Liga and private equity firm CVC, which is expected to be worth $2.3 billion and has been almost unanimously supported by other clubs.

Real Madrid are among the four teams against the investment, which Laporta said was a loan rather than direct income and had undervalued La Liga.

Barcelona beat visitors Real Sociedad 4-2 on Sunday in the opening match of the season for Ronald Koeman's side, racing into a 3-0 lead through a Pique goal and two from Martin Braithwaite before Sergi Roberto added a late fourth.

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