Barça coach, Xavi. / EFE

The bizarre story of a crisis-ridden club

FC Barcelona have enough twists and turns to last a decade of chronicling the club

ROB PALMER

Just when followers of FC Barcelona thought they'd experienced it all in 2021, 2022 stepped forward and said: 'hold my cerveza'.

The bizarre story of a crisis-ridden first half of the season spilled over into the back straight as the club unveiled Ferran Torres. "Barcelona are back," proclaimed Joan Laporta, just hours before the Barcelona president and the new €55-million signing were sent into isolation after testing positive for Covid.

Another twist to the story was the admission that the club couldn't yet register the former Manchester City man as they would exceed the salary cap.

Xavi let the complication of the situation slip :"Let's see how the salary cap situation is. There'll have to be some players leaving. If we get (Ousmane) Dembele to re-sign and lower his pay, it would allow us to get Torres in."

Good luck with that! Dembele is currently negotiating what happens when his contract runs out in the summer. He'll be expecting a rise rather than a wage cut.

Of course, several senior players did take a cut at the start of the season when the club needed financial wiggle room to make way for Sergio Agüero. Alas, the unfortunate Argentinian only wore the shirt five times before enforced retirement.

There's been enough twists and turns to last a decade of chronicling the club. Remember the Lionel Messi saga ran throughout the summer and Antoine Griezmann started the season before he was loaned to Atlético Madrid.

Already this season, 42 players have been handed a matchday shirt in La Liga and the Champions League. Xavi - and Ronald Koeman before him - have needed to dig into the reserve and youth team to reach a full complement of players.

The upside in a very downbeat season is the emergence of the young talent as the obstacles have been removed to reach the first team. Gavi emerged in September and the 17-year-old was soon given a Spain national team call. Nico González is still officially a B team player yet looks like the long-term successor to Sergio Busquets for both club and country.

In fact, the Spain national team for years to come could be drawn from this current Barça squad. Gavi, Pedri, Ferran Torres, Eric García, Ansu Fati are already established internationals.

Ferran Jutglà, Ilias Akhomach, Estanis Pedrola and Álvaro Sanz have all hit the ground running, most of them running very fast.

The enthusiasm seems to have inspired the senior players. Goalkeeper Marc-Andre Ter Stegen put in his best performance of the season in Mallorca, Gerard Piqué seems to have rediscovered his authority, and Sergio Busquets has missed just a single game this season.

One player who won't be seen for a number of weeks is the exciting Austrian teenager Yusuf Demir. There's a clause in his contract that triggers an extra payment when he makes 10 appearances on loan from Rapid Vienna.

The clubs are negotiating and, until then, he's one of many unavailable to Xavi.

Once it was the coach who made the biggest decisions at the Camp Nou, now everything is run past the club accountant before a team sheet is handed in.