'Very worrying': Barcelona president Joan Laporta paints bleak picture of club's finances

Laporta says Spanish giants are €1.35 billion in debt and accuses previous regime of countless 'lies'

Barcelona president Joan Laporta blamed predecessor Josep Bartomeu for the club's financial woes, revealing the Spanish giants are €1.35 billion in debt.

Laporta gave a bleak assessment of the club's financial plight, describing it as "very worrying" and revealing that club salaries representing 103% of income at Camp Nou.

Laporta revealed that Lionel Messi’s new contract would have taken the wage bill to account for 110% of the club’s annual revenue – a figure La Liga did not accept – despite Messi agreeing to a 50% wage cut.

The impasse led to an emotional Messi holding a tearful press conference confirming he would end his 21-year stay at the club. He joined French club Paris Saint-Germain on an initial two-year contract last week.

Laporta returned for a second stint as Barca president after easily winning elections in March but says he was left a “terrible inheritance” by Bartomeu, revealing the club now has a negative net worth of €451 million.

He accused Bartomeu’s regime of countless “lies”, insisting that he and his board of directors must be held accountable.

Laporta said at a Monday press conference: “Our salaries represent 103 per cent of the club’s total income. That’s 20-25% more than our competitors.

“The first thing we had to do when we arrived was to ask for a loan of €80 million because otherwise, we could not pay the salaries. The previous regime was full of lies.

“We also found that we had to do some urgent repairs to the Camp Nou because otherwise, it posed a risk to the attending fans. We also found out that the club had already received 50% of the TV rights fees in advance.

“We found the wage policy in the form of what experts call an inverted pyramid – veterans on long contracts and youngsters on short deal. There were no wages cuts – lies.

“We have found that disproportionate payments have been made to intermediaries, not even agents.

“Barcelona has a negative net worth of €451 million – it is a terrible inheritance. What has been happening is very worrying."

Barcelona's president Josep Maria Bartomeu speaks during the official presentation of Barcelona's new Brazilian football player Paulinho Bezerra, after signing his new contract with the Catalan club at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE

He concluded by saying Bartomeu and his board are responsible for everything wrong at the club until March 7 and that they "will not escape their doing.”

The Catalans have lurched from crisis to crisis since a humiliating 8-2 Champions League defeat to Bayern Munich in August 2020, culminating in them having to let the club's greatest ever player to leave for nothing. With the transfer window open until August 31, Barca are believed to be open to offers on several first-team players including Samuel Umtiti, Clement Lenglet and Ousmane Dembele.

Barcelona signed Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia on free transfers this summer but only just registered them in time for their opening-day victory over Real Sociedad after captain Gerard Pique agreed to a drastic cut in wages.

Laporta hopes other senior players will soon follow suit.

“I thank Pique for his willingness to help the club. His reduction has helped us to register players. We can register Kun [Aguero] with the agreement we plan to have with the other players. I hope the other captains act like Pique,” said Laporta.

Despite such a wealth of problems, Laporta believes Barcelona can repair the situation and has revealed that it has taken out a loan of €550 million euros with an interest rate of 1.1 per cent to restructure the club.

“The situation is dramatic, but we have good news,” said Laporta. “The strategic plan based on our credibility and experience, on the assets that Barca have, makes this situation temporary. I think that in a couple of years, the club’s economy will be healthy.

“We are not scared at all. We are highly motivated and positive and morale is high. It’s a big challenge but we are capable of overcoming it.

“I’d like to call on all Barca fans and the entire club to be united. With football and unity, I’m convinced this era will be full of success.”

Updated: August 17th 2021, 10:24 AM