FC Barcelona is rapidly closing in on bankruptcy

The €135 million Phillipe Coutinho transfer from 2017 is perhaps the most impactful move in the last decade of European football. The big winners of this transfer were Liverpool, who spent the money on Virgil van Dijk, Mohamed Salah, and others, forming the core of a team that would emerge as a superpower in the following years. The big losers of this transfer were FC Barcelona, as Coutinho underperformed drastically. Coutinho’s transfer, along with the  €125 million signing of Ousmane Dembele, spelled what may be the singular most catastrophic summer transfer window of any team in the modern era, and is perhaps the greatest factor in the financial plight currently facing Barcelona.

Large signings were nothing new for Barcelona, especially in the era with Josep Maria Bartomeu as president. The €88 million transfer for Neymar in 2013 and the €81 million transfer for Luis Suarez were both massive successes for the club, as the two combined with Lionel Messi to form one of the most iconic and potent offenses of the era. However, Barcelona had incurred some serious debt from these large signings, and when Neymar left for a record-breaking €222 million to PSG, Barcelona should have reinvested smartly. Instead, they bought Coutinho and Dembele for a combined €260 million, and with a few other signings ended up with a net loss of over €130 million. Moreover, Dembele did not perform well while Coutinho flopped completely, with their wage bills essentially weighing down a team without providing any upside. They didn’t even attempt to balance the wage bill the following year, sending off spare players in exchange for more players they did not need. 

Then, in 2019, the team signed Antoine Greizmann for €120 million. While highly anticipated for years, the move was perhaps even more of a failure than Coutinho’s. The signings of Griezmann and Frenkie De Jong incurred a net loss of nearly €150 million for the window. While Griezmann would eventually recoup €45 million, Coutinho would leave for less than €30 million, and Barcelona lost over €190 million on the pair. Combined with unwise spending on role players as well as the large transfer fees for Dembele, De Jong, and Ferran Torres, Barcelona dug themselves deep into a hole of debt. 

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, their finances took an even worse turn, forcing them to lose transcendent superstar Lionel Messi along with star player Sergio Aguero. They barely stayed afloat during the pandemic era with a €1.3 billion euro debt as Bartomeu and his entire board of directors resigned while facing a vote of no confidence, unable to solve the massive crisis they had created with their blunderous decision-making. 

Then, with new president Joan Laporta at the helm, Barcelona still attempted to make four large signings this summer despite their debt, bending the financial rules and taking advantage of their loans and brand prestige. This has led to their current precarious financial situation: they have been struggling to register the players they signed, have been struggling to pay their pre-existing players, and have never been closer to bankruptcy.