Barcelona are on the verge of the title but remain in financial STRIFE

‘We are not in intensive care anymore but we are still in hospital’: Barcelona are on the verge of their first LaLiga title in four years, but the club remains in financial TURMOIL ahead of a hectic summer off the pitch

  • Barcelona will win their first LaLiga title in four years if they beat Espanyol today
  • Xavi has overseen a fantastic year of progress on the pitch during this season
  • But, Barcelona’s well-publicised financial problems remain ahead of the summer

If Barcelona beat Espanyol on Sunday they will win their first Spanish league title since Lionel Messi left the club. 

But the success will be tinged with ongoing financial concerns, fears that they cannot possibly afford to re-sign Messi — and the urgent need to find a new director of football after Mateu Alemany left for Aston Villa.

‘We are not in intensive care anymore but we are still in hospital,’ said Barcelona’s Economic vice-president Eduard Romeu this week. ‘If we want to bring in any player we have to sell one for the same amount.’

That’s the optimistic forecast – Barcelona need to reduce the wage bill by 200million euros [£175m] in order to be allowed to operate on a 1:1 basis in the transfer market.

If they fail to do that then LaLiga will apply the 40 per cent rule on the club meaning they will have to make €100m [£87m] to spend €40m [£35m].

Barcelona are on the verge of their first LaLiga title in four years following a superb campaign

However, the club remain plagued by off-field financial troubles ahead of a hectic summer 

Referring to the first scenario Romeu added: ‘I want to make it clear that for any player to come in, a player of the same value needs to go out.’ 

Long-serving Sergio Busquets has announced he will leave at the end of the season when his contract runs out. 

His decision not to stay is also seen as an indication that, for all that both sides have talked up a romantic return, it remains highly unlikely Messi is coming home.

He and Busquets have an unwritten pact that they will play together for at least one more season before they retire. Busquets turning down Barcelona’s offer of a 70 per cent pay cut on his old contract suggests the two will reunite in Saudi Arabia.

Of his departing midfielder, Barça coach Xavi said: ‘This title is important for him. He has made a good decision leaving now, it is detrimental to us.

‘He’s leaving valued, on the verge of winning another league. I wish him all the best. He is perhaps the most intelligent player I have ever played with.’

Many see the loss of director of football, Alemany as more damaging to Barcelona than the non-return of Messi. The 60-year-old built the side that should today be proclaimed champions.

So far the alternatives — Alemany staying on through the summer, or Deco replacing him — have not filled the club’s supporters with much confidence.

The loss of director of football Mateu Alemany to Aston Villa is seen as a major blow to the club

Deco has close ties with Barça president Joan Laporta, but is also the agent of Raphinha — one of the players Barcelona are trying to sell in order to balance the books.

This week Raphinha reacted angrily to suggestions he had given the club the go-ahead to offload him at the end of the season.

Selling players who do not want to leave will be another of Barcelona’s problems. Last season Frenkie de Jong would have been sold to Manchester United but he refused to go. Now Ansu Fati, another who has been offered around the Premier League, has also told the club he wants to stay put.

With no one leaving it’s hard to see how Barcelona reduce their wage bill by the necessary €200m.

The club also face the prospect of playing away from the Camp Nou next season while a €960m rebuild is carried out.

Moving to the city’s old Olympic Stadium with its 49,000 capacity will reduce matchday income by €94m across the season and the need to get tourists into the arena will mean only half of those seats will be taken up by season ticket holders and at greatly increased prices.

They also face the prospect of trying to sell several players like Ansu Fati (left) and Frenkie de Jong (right) who don’t want to leave the club

The club have borrowed just under €1.5bn to fund the revamping of the old stadium and surrounding area. The fear of failing to make repayments has also recently raised the issue of the club ceasing to be member-owned and becoming a corporation.

Such fears were hardly allayed when the club surveyed fans’ views on the issue in a recent poll.

With this uncertain backdrop Xavi has insisted the league title — his first as a coach — is more than merit-worthy despite some arguing Real Madrid’s capitulation has diluted its worth.

In difficult circumstances the 43-year-old has guided his team to the top and kept them there with a dominance built on 11 1-0 victories and only 11 goals conceded.

A derby win today will see them win the league with four games to spare. He will have done his job, but the work of those running the club will have only just begun.

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