FC Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, during an event last week. / EP

An inexplicable Barça

It's still a mystery how the Catalan club have managed to put together such a world-class squad for the new season


In my three decades of commentating on La Liga, I've become acclimatised to an annual opening weekend crisis: it's the norm. But Barcelona have taken it to a whole new level this summer.

Many experts feel the young, energetic team could edge the reigning champions to the Spanish title and make quite an impression in European competition. They could fill the 98,000 seats of the Camp Nou for years to come and megastore sales would rocket.

The same experts can't work out how on earth a club with a 500-million euro debt can afford to buy and pay the new signings. And they won't fill the stadium for too long because it will close next summer for renovations costing another €1.3 billion. There is ambitious and then there is the downright ridiculous.

The new recruits would certainly take the team to another level. Robert Lewandowski is still world class, Raphinha is an incredible Brazilian talent, Franck Kessié would bolster an already impressive midfield, Jules Koundé was on the radar of every major club and Andreas Christensen is a very sensible defensive signing.

On top of that, Ousmane Dembélé and Sergi Roberto have been awarded new contracts. There are still reports suggesting that Bernardo Silva could join for a €50 million fee from Manchester City.

In theory, Barça have one of the strongest squads in the world. Realistically, they don't have the money to pay them, and the footballing authorities are playing hard-ball.

La Liga's lawmakers are insistent the books must balance before the players can be officially registered. Currently, the outgoings far outweigh the incomings. The Catalan club have chosen to be creative with their accountancy and have attempted to use their inheritance to free up some finances.

Basically, they've tried to take a 24.5% advance of any future income to pay off debts. These are known as 'palancas' in Spanish or 'levers' in English. They currently seem to have more levers than a pinball machine.

They're trying to take advances on television rights, merchandising deals, and the club's global brand.

The number crunchers at La Liga HQ are still not convinced. It seems that Barcelona need to free players from the roster. Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong all appear to be surplus. There are few takers for the first three and de Jong is understandably keen to stay put in a beautiful city and giant club.

Why would De Jong want to join Manchester United and take a step down in standards? He'll need a lot of persuading to head to Chelsea. The louts who booed him on his arrival at training last week didn't help the cause.

Not so long ago, FC Barcelona was regarded as the model club. Fan-owned; a team built on home-grown talent and a stunning stadium. Now the stadium is decaying, nobody can guess the make up of the team and the board are gambling as if they are on the strip at Las Vegas.