FC Barcelona's fall from grace

From the highs of treble winners to the lows of a billion dollar debt.

June 6, 2015, FC Barcelona fielded the strongest possible team to face Juventus in the Champions League final comprising of Messi, Suarez, Neymar, possibly one of the most fearsome trio in the modern era of football. Barcelona won the game 3-1, with Suarez and Neymar among MSN the scorers, which helped the club in winning their 2nd treble in the last 10 years.

There was only one way the club could have bettered their 2015-16 with respect to the last one, to do treble again but Enrique’s men did just alright, won the League, the Cup, FIFA Club World Club and the UEFA Super Cup, not bad eh? No club usually thinks of retaining the treble, but if you win 4 trophies at the end of the season, it is usually considered a success. 

With Messi in the team, no one dared to question whether the club would be able to win any trophies at the end of the season, Leo always made it happen. A lot has changed after their treble win, an emphatic win against PSG (You know which one). N, S, M, all have left the club in this order and the club has reached the lowest possible point in the club’s recent history. 

What has actually happened?

FC Barcelona is not the only club to have spent more than $1 Billion in the transfer market in the last decade or so but are the only so-called rich team to be plunged into tremendous debt. The debt forced them to let go of one of the best players this world has ever seen because of complex La Liga rulings that prevented them to register Messi even though he was willing to take a 50% pay cut. 

Before Messi’s departure was announced this summer, Barcelona had signed Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia but the trio could not be registered to play until the senior figures like Pique, Busquets took a pay cut. Such a mess!

How did it happen?

Accidental president Josep Bartomeu sacked the sporting director Zubizarreta, the man who assembled MSN and had a great knack for buying good players. Josep soon sold Neymar for a record fee of more than €220 million to PSG and in hindsight, the club is yet to replace him with a player of a similar calibre. Whenever Barcelona tried to replace Neymar, selling clubs knew Catalans had a lot of money and Bartomeu gave in and threw whatever he had at the club, more than €250 million on Dembele and Coutinho, how great have they been for the club? (To rub salt in the wounds, Coutinho scored twice against Barcelona in the 8-2 drubbing against Bayern Munich whilst on loan in Germany)

When the club tabled their bid for Frenkie De Jong, Ajax happily accepted it. Why wouldn’t they? They were getting twice what they perceived his real value was, at €75 million. It became very tough for people related to the club to sense what was happening inside the club. There were murmurs in 2019 about the club’s finances being dwindled by mismanagement but the claims were rebuffed and Griezmann was signed for a fee of more than €100 million, this story also did not end well. Coronavirus struck and matchday revenue suffered and it was a punch on the face for the president.

Josep Bartomeu resigned along with the directors in October 2020, Joan Laporta was the chosen one and he had admitted about the financial crisis looming at the club. Fast forward to August 2021, the team is a shadow of what it was in the treble-winning season of 2014-15, winning a trophy this season would still not heal the wounds of Messi’s departure. For all the supporters Messi is the hero, he never wanted to leave the club, he was forced out. 

Can the club management be proud of their transfer dealings in the last 5-6 years? The answer is evident after Messi’s departure. Some would think if the going was tough why did the club not raise money from the market? Well, the details can be found here.

How does it look now after Messi has left?

Well, Memphis Depay is settling in well. Aguero, who thought to play alongside his friend Leo Messi has left the club and Eric Garcia is back where it all first started for him.

There was a surprise twist at the end of this transfer window, Griezman left for Atletico Madrid and Luuk De Jong joined FC Barcelona. How well will this team perform? Only time can tell.