just before hitting Real Madrid in the final of the Spanish Super Cup, Barcelona Xavi was asked by his boss about Memphis Depay as speculation mounted about the Dutchman’s future.
The 43-year-old replied: “I have told the club that if a player wants to leave, I will want a replacement.”
Just over two weeks later, Depay’s sale to Atletico Madrid for €3m (£2.6m; $3.2m) remains her only transfer. La Liga Leaders, as the deadline approaches. This January window has been quiet for Barcelona, but only in terms of arrivals and departures. Quiet doesn’t describe the whole picture.
Even when Xavi was talking about signing new players, the club’s top executives were discussing a different option. The club’s preference was to invest instead in what the Depay sale made available on new contracts for key players Ronald Araujo And Javi.
There was an easy explanation for their reasoning – the operational restrictions imposed on them by La Liga’s rules on salary caps meant signing new players, and paying transfer fees, would be difficult.
But they did not expect what would happen next. Araujo, Gavi, and Marcos Alonso They were all rejected by La Liga.
And behind the scenes, a cold war is developing. The Catalan club feels it is being treated unfairly, while La Liga wonders if Barcelona understands its financial rules.
In this context, Xavi, club president Joan Laporta, and sporting directors Matteo Alemani and Jordi Cruyff held internal meetings at the club’s headquarters on Monday, which continued until late at night.
If the right opportunity presents itself, the club will still want to sign a wide attacking player, with Depay leaving and Ousmane Dembele injured. Back-up support options are also being explored. Club sources, who have preferred to speak anonymously to protect their positions, acknowledge that a loan may be the best option.
But because of all that we are about to explain, Barcelona will have to work very hard to make it happen.
Let’s go back a little bit to earlier in the season.
Exit Barcelona Champions League The group stages left them with a negative balance on La Liga’s salary cap set for the club. The limit is set as a percentage of revenue.
Barcelona had budgeted according to their expectation that they would reach at least the quarter-finals of the Champions League. Without the TV money that would have come with such a run, the amount they were allowed to spend on wages would therefore have to be reduced.
The only way the club can make up for the money it lost on European TV rights would be through access to the European Football League European League Final – which will not be easy. they face Manchester United in the knockout stages, with the first leg in Spain on 16 February. The winner advances to the round of sixteen.
In December, Barcelona were €26m (£22.8m) above the wage limit set at the start of the season – which was €656m (£576m).
This week, sources close to La Liga said, who asked not to be identified in order to protect their jobs the athlete They wonder if Barcelona fully understand the salary cap rules, given that they have recently tried, and failed three times, to score new contracts; Those of Alonso, Araujo and Javi.
Speaking on Monday evening, La Liga president Javier Tebas said: “In terms of the records the club can make now, it is true that there is a margin after the savings of (Gerard) Pique (who retired in November) and Memphis (Depay), but Barcelona must decide.
“I think it’s important to remember what Barcelona vice-president Edouard Romeu said in June. That what Barcelona have to do, in general, for its future, is reduce the wage bill. From €600m to €400m I think he said, a little more than that.” Let’s see when we start.”
There are two specific articles in La Liga’s financial rules that, according to the competition authority, Barcelona continue to flout.
The first is Article 101, which states that a club cannot register a contract extension in the middle of the season if La Liga projects to remain above its salary cap for next season.
The second concerns the change to Article 93.5, which was introduced at the end of 2022. This has implications for Barcelona in the short and long term.
The change limits how much an asset sales strategy such as Barcelona’s “pulling the lever” last summer could affect the club’s salary cap. It also requires clubs with a negative salary cap to submit a liquidity plan for the next two seasons, allowing for an examination of how they intend to balance their numbers before signing new contracts.
Barcelona has not yet introduced this liquidity plan.
Last summer, Barcelona managed to raise their salary cap high enough to sign up several new signings, mainly due to their famous round of asset sales, a process known as ‘pulling jacks’. They thought they were “smarter” than La Liga and its president, Tebas.
Now, La Liga has made more changes to the rules that are narrowing Barcelona’s room to maneuver. They may have responded to the events of the summer by seeking more caution and control.
Either way, FC Barcelona sources estimate that their salary cap for next season will be set at €450m to €500m, a significant drop from last year.
And Tebas, the president of the Spanish League, added on Monday: “The issue of not registering Javi comes as a result of its entry into force next season.
“Barcelona has a deficit of more than 200 million euros next season. It doesn’t seem like good timing.”
When Barcelona agreed to sell Depay, the club’s directors were confident that it would mean they would soon be able to score at least some of those new contracts mentioned above. But as their relationship with La Liga was strained, they proceeded with the sale before being sure the recordings would be allowed.
Despite the applications being turned down, Barcelona remain optimistic they will be able to go ahead with registrations in the summer.
“What La Liga is asking for are technical issues, which I don’t think are relevant,” Alemany told DAZN ahead of Saturday’s league game in Girona.
“The reality is that Gavi and Araujo are protected under their contracts with release clauses of one billion euros. We don’t know when they will be registered, but it’s just a bureaucratic thing that we will solve as soon as possible.”
Calm remains between Barcelona and Jaffe’s camp. But this overall picture describes the challenges facing the club in their plan to bring in fresh faces on Deadline Day.
However, the day could end with another departure: that Hector Bellerin.
27 years ex Arsenal The right-back has been identified by Sporting Lisbon as a potential replacement for Pedro Porro, who looks close to a move. spurs.
After joining Barcelona on a free transfer last summer, Bellerin has been unable to impress Xavi’s squad.
He signed a one-year contract at the Camp Nou but is not expected to be offered an extension.
Bellerin has played only seven matches this season, in which he has played 494 minutes. His last two appearances were Del Rey Cup Relations with third-division teams Inter City and Ceuta. He has not played a league match since October.
The player is open to a move – and his camp is pushing for it – but would prefer a loan rather than a permanent switch, so he can choose his new destination in the summer. Bellerin joined Barcelona and agreed to one of the team’s lowest salaries to match the limit the club had.
Now it looks like he’s ready to leave, but it’s deadline day – and it’s Barcelona. Don’t rule anything out.
(Top photo: Josep Lago/AFP via Getty Images)