Barcelona chief executive Ferran Reverter explained the extent of the club's financial problems at a news conference Wednesday, saying it would not have been able to survive if it was a public limited company.
"When we came in this March, we found a club that was technically bankrupt; if it was a PLC, [the club] would have been dissolved," Reverter said. "There was no cash flow and we had difficulties paying salaries. Debt and future liabilities amounted to €1.35 billion and there was an urgent need for refinancing."
Barcelona is a members-owned club with over 144,000 members.
The club was still forced to part with Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann among other high-salary players before the start of the season.
In June, Barcelona announced a loan from Goldman Sachs worth $605 million to help refinance their debts.
"If the same squad had been kept in this season, the payroll would have amounted to €835 million, 108 percent over recurring revenue," Reverter said Wednesday. "Moreover, these operations have resulted in significant and unusual intermediation costs in previous years."
Reverter specifically called out former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu for the financial issues, criticizing a number of high-priced acquisitions. He noted a 61 percent increase in the club's payroll from 2016-20.
"They didn't consider if they could pay for the players," he said. "Griezmann was signed in a rush. They realised they could not pay for him and ended up needing €85m in credit to do the deal."
Bartomeu resigned in October 2020 and was replaced by Joan Laporta.
The lack of money led to Messi leaving for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer despite reportedly agreeing to an extension earlier in the summer, per Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens of ESPN.
Barcelona have suffered on the pitch as well, sitting ninth in the La Liga table with 12 points from seven matches. The club is in last place in its Champions League group with two losses in two matches.