Barcelona's money crisis forced Lionel Messi out. Will it leave them stuck with Ronald Koeman?

Ronald Koeman said, "Today, everybody knows what the problem'." It was too easy to say "insert joke here", and the answer was too obvious. It's you, Ronald. Barcelona was beaten by Benfica in Lisbon again. This left them with a Champions League record of played two, lost two and goals scored none. They also conceded six goals. They might not make it out of the group.
Sergio Busquets described it as "a critical situation".

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Not only is it the type of situation that can make a coach lose his job, but also the kind that's just too serious to ignore. Frenkie de Jong was asked if getting rid Koeman would solve the problem. His answer was a simple one: "no". There is self-interest and self-preservation, but there are also self-interests. Frenkie de Jong, the Barcelona manager, said that he was realistic.

He said it as if he hadn’t been saying it for weeks. Today, LaLiga announced the salary limits that were imposed on Spanish clubs this year. This is the amount a club can spend on its footballing business (transfer fees, salaries, etc.) if they want to sign players. Unfortunately, this is the foundation upon which all clubs are built.

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Real Madrid's 2021-22 limit is 739.12m.

Barcelona's is at 97.92m.

Let's say it again: Ninety seven. Seven hundred and thirty nine.

It's no surprise that Barcelona is in crisis. Some like to pretend it's not a crisis and accuse the rest of being hamming it. They are at the brink of being knocked out the Champions League, which they cannot afford. So they had to get rid of their best player *..., and their next best forward, free of charge. This sounds very crisis-y.

They are effectively bankrupt, and that is why the summer ended the way it did. Joan Laporta, Barcelona's president, had previously stated that their total debt was 1.3bn and that they had lost more than 450m over the past year. It was still shocking to see this, given by the league, in contrast with other clubs. There are many figures that offer no explanation and provide no way out, including Barcelona’s figure, which is seven times lower than Madrid's. They are seven times lower than they were two summers ago when Barcelona's limit stood at 671m.

It's not just Madrid. Koeman stated a few days earlier that finishing in the top positions in La Liga would be a success. He's correct if it comes down ultimately to money, which it often does. Madrid can spend more money on their team than Barcelona. Sevilla, Atletico Madrid, Villarreal, Real Sociedad, and Athletic Bilbao are the others. Espanyol is not far behind them. There isn't a Premier League club that can't spend more at less than 100m.

According to LaLiga's figures, Premier League clubs spent 1.38 billion, while Spain's clubs spent 271,m. In absolute terms, the leagues in Germany and France spent more than those in Italy. However, net spending was more important for France and Germany than it was for Germany.

play 1:11 Suarez: Koeman Luis Suarez says that he deserved better treatment and explains why he is sad to see the happenings at the club.

LaLiga's money rules were more than just Bara

It is fascinating to read the figures for LaLiga teams. Take a look at the outstanding clubs that are on this list. Valencia is the lowest. Yes, Valencia. Their maximum is 30.98m. It may have been slightly less than 10m if it weren't for the cash injection from the leaguewide deal made with CVC investment firm.

According to the league's finance director, Valencia had been through the "perfect storm", the pandemic, failure to qualify for Europe and slowing market sales. Their total debt was around 450 million. Six starters left last summer, before people realized how dire things were going to get. They made those sales. But they didn't generate the returns they required.

Valencia is fractionally above neighbours Levante. Their timing was impeccable: they rebuilt the stadium as soon as there wasn't anyone to fill it. Atltico won the league and saw their limit drop by more than half. This was largely due to the fact that they had spent too much the previous year.

Real Madrid's score was so high, it had increased from last season, going from 468m and 739m. This was due to Jos Guerra, LaLiga executive, claiming that their handling of the coronavirus crisis had been "brilliant." Josep Maria Bartomeu, former president of Barcelona, claimed that the pandemic was what sank the Catalan club.

Madrid reduced Madrid's salaries, set up a contingency account, and made sales. This resulted in a small profit. Raphael Varane, Sergio Ramos and Martin Odegaard all left, with a significant economic impact. Carlo Ancelotti was told there wasn't much money available when he took control, that signings would not take place and that the austerity policy would be continued. They used the money they had saved to buy Kylian Mbappe from Paris Saint-Germain. This was something that they could have, according to league confirmation. Or at the very least, they completed it within the limitations.

They didn't win the lottery, so a small portion of the outlay was used instead to sign Eduardo Camavinga. Madrid did not reach the limit, as they haven't done in the past few years.

This is the second thing worth noting. Budget is different from salary limit. The salary limit is not the same as the salary mass. This is the maximum amount a club can spend on its squad. It is determined by league calculations of incomes, assets and based on a variety of criteria.

It is not what they spend and not what they have already spent. Although it is a percentage of income, it is not as simple as many assume. However, the league recommends that salaries not exceed 60%. But that is just good practice. However, it is a fixed number that a club cannot exceed. It is intended to stop clubs from spending money they can't afford and causing more problems.

These numbers, which are now revealed in great detail every year, show what clubs were able to do in the summer. It was spending, this is the key. New spending was also possible. Let's use an obvious example: If Lionel Messi had been in Barcelona with a valid contract and they didn't have to sign a new player, they could have kept him*. Although his salary would have not been considered to be contributing to Barcelona's salary limit failures, the cost of keeping him would have contributed to the limit being lowered.

It is possible to be under budget but you can't spend. It is simple. The league uses an automated application system. If you don't meet the criteria, when you try to register a league player, you won't be able click the green button. It will turn grey. Computer says no. Computer says no.

There is a way around it. There was some room for maneuvering because of the pandemic. If clubs were not over the limit, they could still spend on new members if they had savings and if they showed that they were paying down their debts, cutting costs, or dealing with their financial problems. They could only spend 1:4 if their net costs weren't growing, or if they were falling and quickly. They could also spend 25m for every 100m they were able to show that they had recovered. Barcelona was able to sign the agreement, even though their total spending is higher than 97.92m. (Barcelona's salary costs actually exceed 400m. For every euro that was spent, four euros would need to be brought in. They might also not want to sign, as their financial health is an important (but related) concern.

This was the case at clubs across Spain. Each club held the same criteria and managed it the same way. Villarreal and Sevilla used the sales, which were less than expected in Sevilla's situation because Jules Kounde did not leave -- to finance spending that was higher than everyone else. Nobody had such large outlays. Because they knew Barcelona would eventually have the need to let go, Atltico signed Antoine Griezmann. Valencia spent around 8 million on Marcos Andre, the first time they'd paid for a player in 2 years. This was at the end the market after the CVC deal.

Ronald Koeman could be kept in the same financial straits that caused Messi to leave. David S. Bustamante/Soccrates/Getty Images

Bara can't afford to fire Koeman after the Messi fiasco.

All this leads to the crucial question and those asterisks: Messi. Barcelona's announcement of his departure was met with a statement from the club insisting that both the player and club wanted him continuing, but that it wasn't possible due to league rules. However, this is only partially true. Guerra says that an early renewal would have prevented this situation.

The CVC deal was one of many ways, but it wasn't the only way. It was not clear if it would have been beneficial for their economic health, but that is something Laporta was impressed with by the financial guarantees that allowed him to run for the presidency.

Guerra stated that there were options to keep Messi. "The club decided that it would use its contracting power to sign [players] from other areas. It wasn't just financial.

It was mostly true. Messi went. Others did, too. They moved on to other people if they were able. They could not do it all and they couldn't choose who they would move out. Financial fair play is often criticized, but it was applied in this case, with the ultimate consequences.

Why doesn't Barcelona have an even better team? They can't afford it. Koeman is referring to a problem that is real and tangible. It's not an abstract economic question to ignore. Everybody who wishes to register a player must follow this rule.

Even their own, in Barcelona's instance. Their greatest player. The league's, too, but there was no turning back. Barcelona may have kept Messi -- although that might not be a bad thing -- but no one else was coming -- and time was slipping away from the team, so there was no guarantee of savings. They knew that they weren't required to buy, and Atletico was playing with the clock, while Laporta was desperate with Griezmann. Players refused to move. Pay cuts were made late and not immediately.

All of them came with free transfers, except Emerson who was transferred to make a small profit in the summer. Every deal is dependent on the others. They would not have been registered, and they weren't until the very last moment. They would have been in limbo. It was more like their manager.

Koeman is at Barcelona because he lacks alternatives and lacks money. The existence of a bigger problem than Koeman makes it more likely that he will continue to struggle, growing larger by the day.

Barcelona would lose 12m to Koeman if it did not pay Ernesto Valverde or Quique Setin severance payments. Clubs cannot benefit from unilateral sackings by the league, so any salary that is saved due to Koeman's firing without an agreement can't be removed from the limit and used to sign another manager. The league doesn't want clubs or managers to remain stuck, so there is a special dispensation for bringing in a new coach. Barcelona can spend 3.91m to hire a new manager, above the salary limit. The rules allow for an emergency spending limit of 4%.

This week's stark black-and-white figure was 97.92m. Everyone knows that this is the problem. At least, one.