Are we all really sure that no other club behaves like Barcelona?

By Tony Attwood

The behaviour of Barcelona over the Frenkie de Jong affair is generally portrayed as being a one-off by a club desperate to dig itself out of the hole it has got itself into.  But the lack of serious media investigation into the affair suggests the media is still being Barca-friendly.

The basic media story runs like this: Club X clearly needs player Y, but Club X (often Arsenal but it can be others) fails to offer a decent transfer fee, or the player a decent salary, or simply dithers and can’t make up its mind, and the deal falls through.

But the Frenkie de Jong affair suggests that things can happen in a completely different way – and that given this is happening to Barcelona and Manchester United, who knows who else is in this mess.

The Deloitte figures on club debt are quite worrying

Club Debt
Barcelona €1.3bn
Juventus €900m
Tottenham Hotspur €826m
Inter-Milan €702m
AC Milan €666m
Real Madrid €662m
Arsenal €625m
Atletico Madrid €523m
Manchester United €420m
Liverpool €386m

 

Arsenal’s debt comes from its decline from the record-breaking run for an English club of years in the Champions League (only Real Madrid gaining more consecutive years in the competition) and its decision to start behaving like some other clubs and go in for expensive forced managerial changes.   

Plus of course the loss of stadium income during the pandemic.  This hit Arsenal particularly hard as it is geared up to make a larger than normal percentage of its income from the stadium (€386m in 2015/16 for example) which declined to virtually nothing during the pandemic.

But with football being played in the ground once more the club is slowly clawing its way back – although it has since chosen to spend more than ever before on players in the last two summer windows to regain its Champions League status.

However, thankfully, there is no suggestion that Arsenal are in the sort of trouble that Barcelona is in, although the reality is that it is likely that there are going to be a few clubs out there that are getting into this sort of mess.

Concerning Frenkie de Jong, Manchester U are willing to pay £85m for him and Barcelona are very happy to accept that because that sale will mean that they are then able to register the players they have bought, (bought in the belief that their finances would all be all right in the end, and that the League would never have the nerve to impose its FFP rules upon them).

But the league in Spain has gone past believing that the league needs Barca more than it needs them, and is standing firm.  Barcelona can’t sell de Jong to Manchester United because the player is refusing to go until he is paid the £17m back-pay that he is owed.  And yes, I think if I were owed £17m in back pay and the transfer was to a club that last season was 13 points off the Champions League places I’d say no.  And a club that showed no sign of improvement in its first game this season.

Also the League won’t register Barcelona for next season until it has paid the back-pay it owes its players.  But it can’t do that because it has already spent far too much to meet the FFP terms laid down by the Spanish League.  So now it can’t even register the players it has signed.  (Barcelona’s attempt to fool the financial regulator unravels)

Besides which De Jong doesn’t actually want to go to Manchester United.  Since 23 February this year the club has played 15 first team games (two in the Champions League, the rest in the Premier League) and has won just three.  Eight were lost and three were drawn.  Not really a record that attracts top players.

Indeed if we were to build a league table of the last six games played in the league by PL clubs we would have to go quite a way down to find Manchester United (not to mention the media’s favourite West Ham).

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
14 Everton 6 2 1 3 8 12 -4 7
15 Leeds United 6 2 1 3 6 12 -6 7
16 Aston Villa 6 1 2 3 8 10 -2 5
17 West Ham United 6 1 1 4 8 10 -2 4
18 Manchester Utd 6 1 1 4 6 11 -5 4
19 Wolverhampton W 6 0 2 4 6 16 -10 2
20 Southampton 6 0 1 5 6 17 -11 1

 

In a total pickle of their own making, Barcelona are now running a smear campaign against their own player – ignoring the fact that they owe him £17m because he willingly signed a deferred wage contract to help the club out of its mess.

Now the board are saying that the player’s previous contract was illegal, and therefore he is owed nothing.   The players’ union FIFPRO are suggesting Barcelona are employing extortion techniques – not least because other players who have not taken a pay cut to help the club out of its self-inflicted chaos, have been treated in the same way.

Barca’s main stance is to deny anything is wrong, but I think this time, they’ve got a little bit too far, and it is about to explode.  And if that happens it will send shock waves through all of European football.

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