Barcelona’s decline, broken promises and where Antoine Griezmann’s exit leaves them
The summer transfer window has been full of ups and downs but there is no club happier to see the setback than the Catalan giants, whose financial reality is starting to bite.
The summer transfer window deadline has proven to be the appropriate end to Barcelona’s unhappy summer; chaotic, confusing and above all else – deeply undesirable.
The window ended with Antoine Griezmann leaving the club to return to Atletico Madrid, hours after Emerson Royal – who had only been signed directly by the club only this summer – was sold to Tottenham and Ilaix Moriba left for RB Leipzig.
It was the desperate end of a desperate summer for the club as the players left the Camp Nou they wanted to keep while the players remained who they wanted to leave.
Not only was there an unsatisfactory and unclear end to the outings, but also a late addition with striker Luuk de Jong – the Sevilla third-choice striker who failed to score in 12 appearances at Newcastle earlier in his career – signed a one-season loan contract.
Earlier in August, Lionel Messi had returned to the Catalan capital after his summer vacation in Ibiza with the intention of signing a new contract with Barcelona; he had agreed to a 50 percent pay cut with the club and would agree to pursue his career with them.
He was informed by club president Joan Laporta upon his return that this was simply no longer possible – despite a long negotiation process and after being told all summer that his extension was Barca’s priority – due to of the financial realities facing the club.
Laporta had been elected club president five months earlier by pledging to renew Messi’s deal and clean up the financial mess he inherited from his predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu.
That he could not keep that promise was largely out of his control – the club needed several player departures and salary cuts elsewhere before they could register a new contract for Messi – but he continued to deny, at the same time. both publicly and privately, the reality of the situation.
In a whirlwind of a few hours, Messi had left the club and four weeks later he was followed by Griezmann, who had temporarily replaced the Argentine as the club’s top employee.
The Frenchman returned to Spanish champions Atletico Madrid on a loan deal with the obligation to make the deal permanent for a price of € 40m – to be paid next summer or in 2023 .
Griezmann’s transfer summed up the chaos and absurd financial mismanagement of recent years; He was signed by Atleti in 2019 for € 135m – a deal that funded Madrid club’s record signing of Joao Felix and accelerated Barca’s looming financial crisis. This crisis led the Catalan club to desperately offload Luis Suarez for a small fee the following year – the Uruguayan returned Atleti to the title and allowed Diego Simeone’s side to re-sign Griezmann for less than a third of the price for which it was sold.
The club had spoken of the new importance and importance of Griezmann following Messi’s departure, but ended up desperate to change his salary – as with the Argentine, the failure of the board to accept the The club’s harsh financial reality ended up worsening their situation.
From a sporting point of view, Barca didn’t want to sell Griezmann, and they didn’t want to sell Brazil international Emerson either, but were forced to cash it on the deadline day.
The Blaugrana bought the right-back earlier this summer after co-owning him with Real Betis and he had been in their first La Liga games with the club who were quick to promote his signing.
Laporta said on Emerson’s return to Camp Nou: “His release clause is 300 million euros and we hope he can stay here for many years to come.”
The cases of Messi, Griezmann and Emerson are not the only examples of player departures after mixed messages from the club.
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Ilaix Moriba also left on deadline day following an unsavory chain of events following the breakdown of contract talks between the player’s representatives and Barca.
The teenager – who played 18 times last season for Barca – was out of contract in 2022 but his agents were not ready to accept the reduced terms offered by the club.
Laporta and boss Ronald Koeman responded unequivocally; if Moriba was ready to sign a new contract, he would stay in the stands for a year and not train with the first team.
Its deadline day sale to RB Leipzig ended an ugly saga that produced no winners with both sides looking unreasonable.
Matheus Fernandes’ time at the club has seen an even worse end – he only played 17 minutes for Barca last season before seeing his contract terminated this summer.
The Brazilian midfielder’s legal team threatens to sue Barca over the nature of his dismissal – the club claim such a clause was part of his contract while the player insists he had offers on the table of other clubs, making such action a violation of its agreement.
It comes less than a year after former club boss Quique Setien announced he was suing Barca for breaching the terms of his contract after being sacked and launched a lawsuit claiming 4 millions of euros.
There are a handful of bright spots for Barca – Ansu Fati is back from a long term knee injury and alongside Pedri the club have the two outstanding young players in Spanish football.
Memphis Depay has had an extremely impressive start to life at the club as Frenkie de Jong continues to blossom into a world-class midfielder.
The tough sporting decisions required due to the club’s massive debt – over € 1.3 billion – are now being made, with more players pledging to cut their wages.
Still, Miralem Pjanic, Samuel Umititi and Philippe Coutinho – three high-income players the club have been desperate to sell this summer – remain on the books and many more difficult decisions will likely be required in the weeks and months to come.
The closure of the summer transfer window has ended an unsavory and deeply painful chapter for the club, but this difficult period in Barca’s history is likely to have many twists and turns.
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