The Downfall of FC Barcelona
FC Barcelona is one of the giants of football.
For decades, they have been seen as one of the biggest football clubs in the world. Only four teams have won the prestigious Champions League more times than their 5 victories. Countless legends of the game have donned the famous colours of Blaugrana and La Masia. Their famed youth academy is one of the most world-renowned football youth academies in the history of the game.
However, in recent years they have been on a slow decline, and in summer 2021, the club reached an all-time low.
This article will cover the different stages of the tragic and methodical downfall of this historic club. Including the lack of on-pitch success, colossal amounts of debt, numerous protests, and even the gut-wrenching loss of the greatest player of all time.
This is the downfall of FC Barcelona.
1. The Pandemic
As every other club in the world, FC Barcelona was hit hard by the Coronavirus Pandemic. The virus forced the club to close their famed Nou Camp stadium to their fans and play throughout the pandemic with no fans in their 99,354-seater stadium.
Losing almost 100,000 supporters every game day took its financial toll on the club, who sorely missed the matchday revenue. Their reported revenues in 2020 were £766m, down 14% from a year earlier. According to the club, this revenue would have been a £174m increase if not for the pandemic.
As a club, they relied heavily on matchday revenue to make money and fund signings. Losing this source of income for such a long-time affected FC Barcelona greatly and played a huge role in how the club ended up in a dire financial situation.
2. Bartomeu Presidency
Moving on to one of the main reasons why Barcelona is in the financial turmoil they currently find themselves in Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Bartomeu was the 40th President of FC Barcelona and took over from Sandro Rosell on 23rd January 2014. This was after the former president was caught in hot water regarding the 2014 transfer of Neymar from the Brazilian side, Santos. He started his career as a businessman with companies involved in airport and seaport facilities. He first became involved at Barcelona back in 2003 as the executive head of its basketball and handball teams.
Bartomeu reigned as FC Barcelona President for six years until his resignation on the 27th of October 2020. His six-year tenure as Barcelona president was eventful, to say the least.
During the 6 years of Bartomeu’s presidency, FC Barcelona’s spending was wild and erratic.
They spent an average of £153.86m every year on transfers during this time. The three £100m+ transfers of Ousmane Dembele (£135m), Phillipe Coutinho (£142m), and Antoine Griezmann (£108m) can only be described as failures. With Dembele and Coutinho being both bought during the same 2017/18 season.
The expensive trio has only scored a combined 91 goals between them since moving to the Nou Camp. In addition to this, since the arrival of the £385m trio, FC Barcelona has reached the semi-finals of the Champions League just once. Astonishingly, not reaching the final since their 2014/15 victory with the famous MSN attacking trio spearheading that season’s Champions League victory.
In addition to the expensive trio, FC Barcelona’s had numerous transfer failures, increasing their ludicrous spending during this period.
For example, the signings of Arda Turan (£30m), Andre Gomes (£33m), Paco Alcacer (£27m), Paulinho (£36m), Nelson Semedo (£32m), Malcom (£36m), Francisco Trincao (£27m), Miralem Pjanic (£54m), and Neto (£23) are all examples of failed transfers that have not lived up to the expectations that the FC Barcelona faithful expect. Or, that has been previously witnessed from the countless legends that have worn the shirt.
This could only be seen as £298m worth of reckless spending and transfer window incompetency. None of these signings have paid dividends so far and have only increased FC Barcelona’s outlay and contributed heavily to their sizable debt.
To add to the ludicrous transfer fees paid during this time came the equally absurd wage fees offered to players.
According to an August 2021 article from AS, “By 2019, Barcelona’s first-team wage bill had escalated out of control. The mean figure for player’s salaries was just over 10.4 million euros per player, their squad spending limit was 671.4 million.”
At the time of writing, FC Barcelona has 13 players earning above £100,000 weekly wages, 9 players earning above £200,000-a-week and 2 players earning above £350,000-a-week.
Players who are clearly surplus to requirements at the Nou Camp are raking in preposterous weekly wages. Like, Samuel Umtiti who earns £208,000 a week, and Miralem Pjanic who earns £210,000-a-week. That is £21,700,000 annual salaries to two players who made 46 appearances between them last season.
This damning wage situation is the epitome of Bartomeu’s regime. Josep Maria Bartomeu’s FC Barcelona presidency was built on costly, hit or miss transfers, colossal transfer fees, nonsensical wage fees, and consequently huge amounts of debt and underachievement on the pitch.
5. Messi’s Departure
Onto to the final nail in the coffin. The departure of Lionel Messi.
This was a rollercoaster exit and it began in summer 2020 where Messi publicly demanded to leave FC Barcelona. With reported arguments and disagreements between the Barcelona legend and Bartomeu.
Nevertheless, despite the rumours and tense atmosphere behind the scenes, the Argentine stayed and suited up for the new season.
Small improvements on the pitch were seen and after the October 2020 resignation of Bartomeu, things finally started to look positive for the future of FC Barcelona and everything pointed towards Messi signing a new contract and ending his iconic career at the club.
However, in an extraordinary turn of events, this was not the case. Such was the awful handling of FC Barcelona’s finances by the previous regime. The new president, Joan Laporta, had to reluctantly end negotiations with Messi and let him leave the club.
It was reported that Messi’s desire was to stay, and he and his camp did everything they could to make sure this happened; even a significant wage cut to ease FC Barcelona’s debt.
Despite this, the astronomical wage bill that FC Barcelona currently paid was at direct odds with the new La Liga policy, and FC Barcelona had no choice but to let go of their talisman.
Just when it seemed that the imminent announcement of Lionel Messi resigning from Barcelona was coming, the club unwillingly announced just eight days before the start of a new league season that Messi would be leaving the club.
A tearful and hard-to-watch press conference quickly followed and just like that, Messi was gone.
A global pandemic, in addition to several bad decisions from the FC Barcelona owners, led to this point, and only time will tell where they go from here.