Opinion – Barcelona find themselves in dire straits as they search rapidly for solutions and beg Lionel Messi for patience.
This time last year, Messi was demanding an exit from Barcelona amid a broken relationship with the board.
A year later, and after the return of former president Joan Laporta, that desire to depart dwindled.
But to say everything has changed would be an overstep, instead, it’s just the perception that has been altered at Camp Nou, and that’s because of nothing more than consequences.
During the Super League saga, they would blame coronavirus for peaking above the €1billion debt figure, but the excuse didn’t wash.
Barcelona, the club with the biggest income in world football – more than €4billion per year – lost more money during the pandemic than half of La Liga combined.
For the longest time, that wouldn’t have mattered – debt is just a number for many of the biggest clubs in world football, and even in La Liga.
It’s just a number until the debt begins to have consequences, and that’s where we see the shift in perception.
There was seldom a care in the world when Barca were splashing out more than £100million on more than one signing, paying through the nose to top up Lionel Messi’s contract along the way.
But now they find themselves more than 40% over the wage cap and only able to reinvest 25% of what they earn.
That means they are unable to sign Messi to his new contract, praying that he hangs on long enough for Joan Laporta to clear the wage bill sufficiently.
It means they are unable to register their four new signings, too, despite landing three of them in Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay for free.
And now Barca find themselves setting up meetings with Javier Tebas, asking for an understanding of their situation having gained an advantage over the rest of the league through overspending.
That’s not going to wash with Tebas, who has vowed to ‘protect’ the rest of the teams in the league by enforcing the salary cap rules.
He has already revealed how he warned Barcelona against their rising debt more than once, and now he has made it perfectly clear that there will be no special dispensation given for the contract of Lionel Messi, nor anyone else.
Nor should there be.
The consequences have to be met and have to be enforced to ensure a fair competition, to ensure that those clubs who make financial errors by spending beyond their means have a reason not to do it again.
And sure it was fun along the way for Barcelona, winning six of the last 11 La Liga titles, but what is to come, whether it be the departure of Lionel Messi or the departures of several others to make room for the Argentine at Camp Nou, is a lesson that debt is not just a number, and not every £100million signing is good for your club, either.
Bottles of champagne aplenty will have been popped when such signings took place at Camp Nou, regardless of the salary cap being breached and the debt figure rising, but that leads us to now when a trip to FC Barcelona’s La Rambla store might offer up the opportunity of bargains galore.
‘Clearance sale’, the banner would read, Antoine Griezmann sat in the window, waiting to be sold so that one of his teammates can sign a bumper new contract.
Those are the consequences, and while it may not be the present Barcelona regime that got the club into this mess, it is they, and indeed the club as a whole, who must learn from the chaotic spending and where it has led them.