Barcelona President Joan Laporta shed light on the club's financial woes Monday, saying its debt stood at €1.35 billion, which played a role in Lionel Messi's recent departure for Paris Saint-Germain after his new contract with Barca couldn't be finalized.
ESPN FC's Alex Kirkland noted Laporta, who returned to the presidential role in March after holding the position from 2003 through 2010, blamed predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu for the issues.
"Bartomeu was plugging holes in the short term and mortgaging the club in the long term," Laporta said. "That leaves us a dramatic inheritance. To the initial debt of €617 million you have to add €389 million on players, €90 million in litigation, €79 million in advance television rights and €56 million from the Espai Barca project. In total, it's €1.35 billion."
Messi, who became a free agent July 1 after his contract expired, was widely expected to sign a new five-year deal with Barcelona before the club suddenly announced Aug. 5 it wouldn't be able to retain him because of La Liga's "regulations on player registration."
The Blaugrana face a "strict" salary cap imposed by the Spanish top-flight league that also required Gerard Pique to accept a wage cut in order to sign transfers Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, per Kirkland.
Bartomeu wrote an open letter last week (via Marca's Ramiro Aldunate) saying the "inaction" by the club's board of directors since Laporta returned to the presidency is the reason for the financial state:
"If [Laporta's] Board had approved the [Barcelona Corporate] project, it would have meant a capital injection of at least €220 million with the aim of reducing the income losses caused by COVID...which in 2020-21 could be €375 million.
"If to those €220 million we had added the necessary 20 percent salary reduction (€90 million) from the players' contracts, essential from March 21, 2021, when the worst expectations were confirmed, the salary ratio dictated by La Liga would have been complied with, allowing for players to be registered."
Laporta argued the letter was "full of lies," per Kirkland, and said the trickle-down effect of Neymar's transfer to PSG in August 2017 was the source of the problems.
"They spent the €220 million from the Neymar deal disproportionately and at light speed. That is when the salaries shot up," he said. "We'll have to change the model and invest in [Barcelona's academy] La Masia, making more proportionate investments with more sporting logic."
Messi signed a two-year contract with an option for a third year with PSG that includes an annual salary of €30-35 million, according to ESPN's Julien Laurens.
The French side hasn't announced when he'll make his club debut. Les Parisiens, who opened the Ligue 1 term with back-to-back wins over Troyes and Strasbourg, next play Friday at Brest.
Meanwhile, Barcelona opened the post-Messi era Sunday with a 4-2 victory over Real Sociedad.