Earlier this week a transfer from Memphis Depay to FC Barcelona seemed to be a success. The star player of Olympique Lyonnais was supposed to be around about a four year contract, but still nothing is official. The question is whether the Catalans can afford a million-dollar deal.
That has everything to do with a special rule of the game that the Spanish league organiser has devised in order to prevent financial decay in top Spanish football. Clubs are not allowed to spend more than they receive. An automated system monitors this.
Joris Evers, head of communications at La Liga, explains exactly how this works. “We have a financial control system that goes beyond UEFA’s Financial Fair Play (FFP). That’s where you only look at a club’s financial policy afterwards. We do that from the front. Right from the start of the season.
At the start of the competition, every club in Spanish professional football receives a digital overview. “Clubs log in and immediately see the pot of money they are allowed to spend on players and staff members. How high or low that amount is, has to do with the company results over the past five years“
“When a player is recruited, a club has to enter all the details into the system and they automatically see how much is left of the player‘s budget.
Based on the operating results of the last five years, it is obvious that the Barça game is limited. This season’s figures are not yet public, but last year the club was allowed to spend a maximum of €656 million.
That seems a hope, but FC Barcelona lives on a very large footing. The most recent public documents show that the coastal club pays more than half a billion in salaries a year. There is also no club that has ratted more on the transfer market in the last four seasons than the Catalans (almost EUR 900 million).
The coronavirus pandemic is also taking a big bite out of Barcelona‘s budget. In recent months, the club has seen 30% of its revenue (around 300 million euros) evaporate. Players have even been asked to hand in 70% of their top salaries.
To put it simply, there is now no room for a transfer of around EUR 30 million. “Players have to leave first,” said head coach Ronald Koeman, explaining the situation at Fox Sports.
The Lyon board is also taking a step in the right direction. Yes, there is something going on around Depay. But no, Barcelona has not made an offer yet. Last Sunday, the club management of Barcelona would even have indicated that they have no financial possibilities for a transfer for the time being.
Financially, therefore, Barcelona’s room for manoeuvre is limited. The La Liga financial analysts, who look over the shoulders of Josep Maria Bartomeu and his colleagues, are also aware of this. They keep an eye on exactly what the club receives and what it spends.
Do they not turn a blind eye to coronation? “No”, Evers says decidedly. And don’t clubs come up with a trick to get out of the strict rules? “No, no, really not”, he laughs. “If they do, our analysts will know.”
Conceived by clubs themselves
According to the communications manager, it makes more sense for clubs under financial pressure to take their time to find solutions. Certainly in the case of transfers for which there is currently no room according to the system.
“Realise well”, emphasises Evers. “This was conceived by the clubs themselves as a reaction to a period when salaries could no longer be paid and great promises were not kept. Nobody ever wants to go back to that situation”