PETE JENSON: Barcelona will try to build on LaLiga triumph with a trio of free summer signings, given club’s financial problems… as PSG star Lionel Messi is joined by Inigo Martinez and Ilkay Gundogan on Xavi’s shortlist
- The club’s financial position leaves them stuck for choices in the transfer market
- They will look to sign three players on a free transfer during the summer
- Club legend Lionel Messi will be the Catalan side’s main priority in the window
Lionel Messi, Inigo Martinez and Ilkay Gundogan make up the holy trinity of free transfers that Barcelona want to build their summer around – one legend and two top internationals that will excite supporters and improve the quality of the team that has just won the league.
Making it happen will not be easy and depend largely on how much slack they are cut by La Liga and how successful their attempts at selling players are.
The club have to make up a £174million [€200m] deficit in order to move with freedom in the transfer market, free from the shackles of La Liga’s 40 per cent rule that will otherwise oblige them to spend only £35million [€40m] of every £100million they bring in by either increasing revenue or reducing costs.
The scrapping of in-house TV channel Barça TV saves them 12m euros a year and they announced this week that Ambilight TV will be their shirt sleeve sponsors for three years for £7m [€8m], £8.6m [€10m] and £10.5m [€12m].
The news comes in the same week that Jordi Alba has revealed he will leave at the end of this season saving Barcelona a sizeable chunk of the 36m euros they would have had to pay him in gross earnings and backdated salary from the pandemic. His severance has not been made public but it will only be a fraction of that sum due if he had stayed.
Lionel Messi will lead Barcelona’s summer shortlist ahead of his potential PSG exit
Club president Joan Laporta will attempt to navigate the summer transfer market within Barcelona’s financial constraints
They are crawling their way back towards solvency one cut at a time but the fact that they are trying to sell bits of the pitch and seats from the Camp Nou before it is renovated is a reminder of the desperation to raise money everywhere they can.
There have been claims from media closely related to the club that the departure of Alba and Busquets coupled with Gerard Pique moving on last year are equal to £104m [€120m] in savings, and that the arrival of Messi will generate £200m [€230m] in extra revenue – £130m [€150m] from increased sponsorship and £70m [€80m] from matchday revenue.
The figures are financial fantasy but for all the exaggeration it’s clear with a very simple transfer market of selling for big money and only bring in free transfers the club are moving in the right direction.
Martinez has agreed to join the club although he has a clause in his pre-agreement that will mean he can move to another club if Barcelona cannot register him.
Gundogan is the next on the list and like Martinez he would arrive without a transfer free but he wants a three-year contract and the club and that will cost the club for the 32-year-old.
Messi will be president Joan Laporta’s crowning glory if he can make it happen Messi has £348 [€400m] offer from Saudi Arabia but is waiting for Barcelona. His pals Alba and Busquets will accompany him to Riyadh if Barça can’t find room in their budget for his salary – which La Liga will value at £21.7 [€25m], even if he agrees to be paid a lot less.
Whether or not it can happen depends almost entirely on departures. There seems to be a pattern emerging of stories leaked to friendly media in Spain that certain players are happy to move on. These reports are then followed, usually 24 hours later, by the player taking to social media to deny he wants to leave. We have seen it with Raphinha and Jules Kounde in the last two weeks.
Ilkay Gundogan (left) and Inigo Martinez are two other frontrunners to be signed on free deals
Xavi’s side, who won the LaLiga title this year, will not have a huge summer budget to use
As things stand no one wants to leave and if that remains the case Barcelona will not be able to sign Messi. Jorge Mendes is now closer to the controls at the club than ever. The appointment of Deco to the role of Sporting Director alongside Mateu Alemany only increases his influence. Whether that facilitates the departure of Raphinha despite him preferring to stay, remains to be seen.
Mendes represents Ansu Fati and it still possible that he moves in the summer but again it will have to be against his wishes.
Of the other possible departures Andreas Christensen looks the most likely. He has had an excellent season and if Newcastle can be persuaded to sign a player who was not first choice at Chelsea then Barcelona will gladly let him leave with Martinez in-coming to replace him.
There is no shortage of names being pumped out every day in an attempt to keep optimism levels high among the club’s supporters. Joshua Kimmich and Martin Zubimendi were the two names mentioned last week to replace Sergio Busquets but for all that both would be perfect in terms of profile neither would come in under 50m and Barcelona’s chances of making either transfer work are non-existent.