Opinion – Barcelona have once again shown why calls for players to reduce salaries, leave the club or – in the extreme – play for free are absurd.
The financial crisis of FC Barcelona has dominated the headlines this summer, be it because of Lionel Messi’s departure, the Blaugrana‘s struggle register new signings or the shock exit of Antoine Griezmann late in the transfer window.
And throughout Barca’s attempts to wrestle the financial monster they have created there have been a number of somewhat quieter stories amid the transfer chaos this summer brought.
One of the more high-profile ones was the case of Ilaix Moriba, the young midfielder who refused to sign a new contract at Camp Nou under what he felt were unfair terms.
Barcelona made more than one offer, but the 18-year-old felt he was worth more, refusing to do what he felt was a club-friendly deal when it was his time to be rewarded with a big-money new contract.
At time of writing, the storm has passed on that front. Ilaix is now playing for RB Leipzig having been sold by Barca on the back of his refusal to sign a new deal on their terms.
But unacceptable actions on the part of Barcelona came before, and in the main, from club president Joan Laporta, who weaponised supporters.
Laporta knew full well that making the offers public would subject Ilaix to criticism. The ‘who does this kid think he is?’ argument soon took centre stage.
Racial abuse followed and vile abuse was a constant as the situation unfolded and all the while the narrative was being firmly controlled by Laporta and Barcelona, who repeatedly called out the midfielder for his firm contract stance.
Ilaix still claims the full truth has not been told, and he is right. Not least because we simply haven’t heard his side of the story, and in terms of protecting the player, his representatives certainly could have done more.
Though, make no mistake, the abuse the vitriol that this 18-year-old receives is firmly on Barcelona.
And he is not the only one to have received such abuse as a result of irresponsible action on behalf of club officials.
Pay cuts were another long running theme across this summer, with players expected to reduce or defer their wages to help the club.
Apparently, that’s how you show true loyalty to the club, and many did, including Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets.
Not that they were in a position to say no. That’s not to say they would have, but all three are club legends who risked having their respective legacies tainted after the club made it very public they would be negotiating new club-friendly terms with these players amid their crisis.
Attempts with other players did not go so smoothly.
It’s unconfirmed whether Barcelona asked Samuel Umtiti to reduce his salary, but he was put up for sale, and his eagerness to stay at the club, and indeed suggestions he did not want a pay cut, led to booing from supporters.
The defender who has seen his body deteriorate for the cause of playing for Barcelona was booed repeatedly by supporters who – just like in the case of Ilaix – sent vile abuse in his direction.
Umtiti was yet another victim of public betrayal from Barca, and all this happened during – as well as after – Barcelona were trying to scrape together every penny to pay Lionel Messi a reduced but still eye-watering wage.
Is that fair? Since when did doing right by the club mean kissing goodbye to a contract you have earned? And what reason have Barcelona given players to agree to it?
Sure, Barca have served as a magnificent platform for some of these players to become superstars, and the club have paid them well, too.
But if we are going to look at this through a lens of capitalism- as we must in modern football – make no mistake about it, players like Pique and Sergio Busquets would have done it elsewhere had it not been Barca, and they would have been paid for it all the same. Ilaix has been a good example of that, finding a club that does value him in Leipzig.
And while it is a noble gesture indeed that some players have decided to help the club in its hour of need, no matter what noises Barcelona have put out, no matter what smart comments Laporta has made in front of a camera, it should in no way project shame onto those who have not done those club-friendly deals.
Players like Umtiti want to ensure the best life they possibly can for their families having earned the right to sign a bumper contract, young stars like Ilaix want to maximise their earnings because they have no idea if an Ansu Fati-like injury awaits them around the corner.
These are human beings fighting for their worth, while Barcelona are a business trying to maximise wealth.
And if you needed any reminder of that, take a look at Emerson Royal’s gut-wrenching interview following his Barcelona exit.
He arrived this summer to fulfil a dream of playing for Barcelona. He posed with a picture of a Barcelona shirt with Joan Laporta with a smile from ear-to-ear.
Just 29 days later, he was sold for a profit of around €5million. In just 29 days he had gone from a player who had earned the opportunity to play and to fulfil his dreams with Barcelona having impressed at Real Betis to being shown the door because it is club above all else.
And the list of players to have been let down by Barcelona – and many other clubs – for business reasons goes on and on.
It is business before all else for so many of these clubs, and it’s for that reason why it must be individual before all else for players. For Umtiti, for Ilaix, for Emerson and many others, none of which are likely to get the same help from their club in their hour of need.