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Andreas Christensen, left, was unveiled by Barcelona this week even though he's not yet eligible to actually register as a LaLiga player. Urbanandsport/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The co-chairman of Clearlake Capital is part of the group that bought the Blues from Roman Abramovich. The meal at Via Veneto had been very good when Laporta was bundled into the back of a van. The visit was described by the CEO as "institutional." It wasn't very convincing and reporters didn't buy it; one asked if Eghbali was there to confirm Cesar Azpilicueta's move to Camp Barcelona, and the captain wondered so as well.

He was not the only one who was left to wonder. The centre-back had already arrived in Spain with a piece of paper that proved that he had always wanted to come to Catalonia. It was written when he was little and he wanted to be a fodboldspiller. He hoped that Alonso and Azpilicueta would join him. The day before, Kessie arrived at AC Milan in a blue suit.

Raphinha may join Barcelona despite competition from other clubs who had placed bids above 60 million, as news came a couple of days later of another increased bid for the attacker. The transfer fee for Robert Lewandowski is said to be close to 40 million. Jules Kounde was also talked about by Laporta. The Ousmane Dembele story was going on six months after they told him to leave the club and a week after he became a free agent.

Frenkie was there. When he didn't really want to leave, Barcelona tried to get him to go, but now the president says he won't let him leave. He said that he would like the 25-year-old to stay.

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All of them pose a question: how?

Barcelona is reported to have 1.3 billion in debt. How could they chase so many players at such a high price? Why did the league allow them? The club was described by their own vice president as "clinically dead" when they took over from the regime that led them to almost ruin.

They can't. Barcelona don't meet the league's financial fair play criteria so they can't be registered The budget deficits prevent new players from joining the squad because they aren't within the salary limits.

It's for now, anyways. The aspiration and expectation is that they will eventually. It's not really the answer if it's only speaking about the present. It might need a little explanation.

It needs an explainer even if it is simplified, otherwise it gets very complex, very boring and we will be here forever. People don't want that.

Beyond the obvious answer that no team ever signs all the players they pursue, still less all the players they are linked to, here are a few pointers as to how a club that appears unable to sign any players will end up signing players. Maybe a lot of them and a lot of money as well.

Barcelona's president, Joan Laporta, is talking a good game while the club continues to wheel and deal in order to be able to make some signings. So far, it's been a mixed effort. Kike Rincon/Europa Press via Getty Images

There are different interrelated processes here.

  • The general financial state of the club has to be balanced with the competitive state of the club in the short, mid and long term.

  • The ability of the club to hit budgetary targets is one of the reasons why there was a rush to bring in the first of the economic levers.

  • The club can fulfill the league's criteria to sign. Right now, that is the most important.

The amount of transfer fees, amortisations and wages that can be spent on the first team is known as the limite salarial. It's an oversimplification, but it's a calculation of what the club can afford based on income and outgoings. The correlation is not as direct as the suggestion that salaries should not be more than 60 percent of income.

It's important that it's applied prior to signing. This isn't like other financial controls where a club that breaks the rules is punished later on. The club won't be able to sign a player if they don't meet the criteria. You won't be able to click "Accept" with the app that is used to register. You will not be able to add a player because his registration will not be completed. The computer will say no, but there are ways to move money around, defer payments and spread costs.

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Depending on the amount of money coming in and going out, the salary limits can change. Barcelona's -144m, the only negative figure in the league, was caused by costs being higher than anticipated and some losses being loaded into last year. The figure is the last published one. The next figure will be defined later this summer, meaning that Barcelona have to make good on 144 million before they get to 0. They don't have anything to spend on players.

That doesn't mean Barcelona don't spend any money on their squad, they just can't. They can't spend again because they don't hit the targets, only under certain and limited criteria.


Manchester United is interested in Frenkie De Dutch, he wants to stay with Barcelona.

What is it that it all means? Barcelona needs to cut costs and make money quickly. It's obvious that players should be sold for a lot of money or let their wage-earners find a new club. They've tried both, and are still trying, but neither is easy; players tend not to be that keen to take pay cuts or leave clubs where they're happy. Being on the market when you don't have a lot of money is one of the worst things about it.

TheSpotify sponsorship deal is one of the ways in which money can be generated. Revenue increased on match day. Faced with a crisis, Barcelona came up with economic levers.

They wanted to do two things. The other was to sell up to 25% of their TV money for 25 years. They set up a company called BLM to manage their marketing and licencing. This is a good idea. It may not be the question at the moment. They had to find a solution, even though the answer may be "no, not really". Privatising assets is a way out.

The first of these palancas was confirmed recently and after two years of losses, it allowed Barcelona to hit budgetary targets.

Barcelona sold 10% of the money they are due to make from their LaLiga TV rights over the course of 25 years. They have a TV deal worth 166m. If the deal doesn't change, they will give over 16m a year, starting this year, for 25 years, in return for a total of 400m. A loan against future earnings is what it's called.

Former Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, middle, was also introduced in Barcelona this week despite being in a similar limbo to Christensen. Adria Puig/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Barcelona hope that by buying themselves some time, they can sell a further 15% for close to 400 million. It's not easy to hit that target, but raising a little under 600m would simplify more complicated calculations. Barcelona predicted that the potential BLM deal could be worth around 300m. The offers of 270m-plus had already been rejected.

Does that mean they can register players? It's not on its own. Barcelona suggested a few weeks ago that even if they made $600m from the palancas, it wouldn't be enough. 500m should be enough to allow them to sign.

Taking Barcelona's salary limit of -144m and their actual salary mass of 560m would give them a positive balance. They would fall short if they could make 600m. If they made 800m, the upper end of their predictions, they would have a surplus of around 96m.

If they fell short, they could still spend by taking advantage of LaLiga criteria put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic and designed to give clubs some room for maneuver within the framework of reducing costs, based on the belief that they could not prevent clubs from having any access to The rule says that clubs can invest 1 for every 4 they save. You can invest 2.5m if you sell a player for 10 million dollars. Half of what is saved can be invested if that player alone accounts for 5% of their budget.


Frenkie de Jong's move to Manchester United makes a lot of sense, according to two people.

If a club gets to a point where their limite salarial does correlate to their salary mass, then it can invest at1:1. You can invest if you keep that euro level. Barcelona aspire to a ratio like that rather than a surplus for signings. Laporta said recently that he hopes to do so even if they don't sell off half of BLM. We will see how realistic that is this summer.

Barcelona admitted that wage adjustments would have to be made in order to keep him as they tried to sell him first and now. They are coming on free transfers. Sergi Roberto was offered a contract that involved a pay cut. The renewal of Samuel Umtiti only renewed attempts to get rid of him, as well as the loan departure of Clement Lenglet to Spurs. The costs need to be reduced and dramatically. It's not a chance that Laporta talks about hoping that he doesn't have to let the Dutch player go, he knows he still might.

Laporta insists that while they want to build the squad that Xavi wants, and while he feels some obligation to follow through on his promise to Lewandowski, even as the transfer fee rises way beyond what they'd hoped, any decisions must balance financial criteria Some of the deals being promoted are as implausible as they look. There are still too many players earning too much money, exits that need to be found, ways of reducing the costs, and they need to because they just have to. They either have to improve their squad or they don't. It is hard. It is difficult to breathe in and breathe out at the same time.

Laporta said that the second palanca would have to be secured first.

Is it possible for them to find a euro for every euro they want to invest? They will have to, which brings us back to the question of how.

This is the way it can be done. Whether it is the right approach, whether you believe all you are told, or whether this summer ends the way the pessimists think, it is possible to sign some players. It is impossible to sign all of them. The system won't let it happen.

It has been claimed that Barcelona have been allowed to just keep on spending, repeating the mistakes of the past, because they are allowed to sign at all. They have not been punished for their financial mismanagement and have carried on regardless. The latter is not true if there is something in it. There are two words that underscore that.

There are two people, Lionel and Messi.