From Camp Nou to Kamp Krusty: Sympathy is hard to come by for desperate Barcelona
Things continue to go from bad to worse in Catalonia.
The last president to openly display the extent of delusion Joan Laporta has this summer just had his Mar-a-Lago estate raided by the FBI.
You would fancy that if Barcelona continue to show their recent proclivity for financial manipulation, they too can expect similar levels of unwanted attention from stern-looking career men in overly-starched suits sooner rather than later.
The exact details of the Catalan giants’ pecuniary implosion are both complex and boring, but for the purposes of brevity, they boil down to this: “Barcelona have no money, and yet they are continuing to sign players as if they do”
In fact, their entire transfer policy can perhaps be best summed up by that video of Barry from Eastenders singing Labi Siffre at the Bowls - you better believe they’re going to do it anyway.
So far this summer, Barca have brought in Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski, Jules Kounde, Franck Kessie, and Andreas Christensen. Once upon a time, a spree like that would have earned you an admiring handshake from Dale Winton and a shot at the Super Sweep.
The catch, of course, is that as things stand, none of them can actually be registered. Welcome to Barcelona, the NHS Dentist of La Liga.
The numbers are, diplomatically-speaking, stark. Despite their gargantuan standing on the European stage, the club is £1.14billion in debt, and have to raise some £85million by Saturday if they are to be permitted to include their newest acquisitions in a domestic curtain-raiser against Rayo Vallecano at the weekend.
Consequently, Laporta and his band of merry pawners are doing anything and everything they can to thin out their distending squad. At this stage, you would imagine that the boardroom at Camp Nou resembles the latter stages of an abortive Apprentice task, all anguished haggling and Bluetooth headset meltdowns.
Among those being forcefully ushered towards the exit door are Frenkie de Jong, the Dutch midfielder who is reportedly owed the GDP of a small principality in deferred wages, and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the former Arsenal striker who, just seven months ago, seemingly kicked up quite the fuss to engineer a move to an am-dram Succession spin-off, directed by Nathan Fielder.
In the case of the former, there are looming threats of legal action as he continues to resist calls to take a pay cut. In the case of the latter, he is being unceremoniously abandoned with all of the heartless disregard of a family pet left by the side of the road in a cardboard box. Remember folks, a capricious striker is for life, not just for the second half of a massively underwhelming league campaign.
Thankfully for Barca, Chelsea are no longer owned by a Putin-associated Russian oligarch, and so they could well be in a position to sign both. The joys of the beautiful game.
Elsewhere, the club have just about kept their nostrils above the rising tide by activating a number of economic levers, or palancas, to raise money. TV rights have been sold, as has a quarter of their in-house production company, Barca Studios. In effect, they are mortgaging a future that looks more and more precarious by the day.
So drastic is their situation, there is even talk of Kessie and Christensen, two of their brand new inexplicable quintet, leaving on free transfers before they’ve so much as kicked a ball for the club. Camp Nou is in real danger of turning into Kamp Krusty.
And yet, despite it all, you’d struggle to muster even an ounce of sympathy for Barca’s plight.
This is the same club who petitioned so vehemently for the formation of a European Super League (their enthusiasm makes more sense with each passing calamity), and who ran roughshod over pretty much every moral and ethical boundary imaginable to steal Martin Braithwaite away from Leganes a couple of years ago because of an “emergency” injury crisis.
Let’s not forget that Leganes were then denied the right to sign a replacement of their own, and were subsequently relegated, still yet to return to the Spanish top flight.
You see, greed begets greed, and what goes around comes around.
Barcelona have operated beyond even their elephantine means for far too long, with far too many enablers happy to see them thrive at the expense of others.
Nobody wants to wish genuine financial ill will on any club, especially such a historic institution of the continental game, but you can’t say they haven’t brought this on themselves.