Barcelona's capture of Kounde could be their shrewdest move yet

Barcelona are mortgaging their future and relying on the club’s enduring allure to beat Chelsea to the signing of Jules Kounde… Joan Laporta is putting full faith into Xavi and his cohort of new signings

  • Barcelona’s imminent capture of Jules Kounde is their shrewdest move yet 
  • The club made a bold decision to mortgage it’s future with investment funds 
  • Club president Joan Laporta has always enjoyed decisions that involve risk 
  • Laporta’s solution to financial issues has been to boost revenue with sell-offs 

Barcelona’s imminent capture of Jules Kounde is their shrewdest move yet (they need defenders more than attackers) and it’s being bankrolled – just like the acquisition of Andreas Christensen, Franck Kessie, Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Dembele – by the club’s bold but risky decision to mortgage its future with investment funds.

Club president Joan Laporta has always been a bit of gambler. He plumped for the completely inexperienced Pep Guardiola once when the then Barcelona B-team coach told him ‘you haven’t got the balls’.

This time he is betting on the current intake of new signings, under the tutelage of Xavi, to augment Barcelona’s position as one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Barcelona club president Joan Laporta has been at the helm of their financial endeavours

The Catalan club are closing in on the signing of Sevilla’s central defender Jules Kounde

That will sustain its capacity to generate huge revenue which will help offset reduced earnings from TV rights and shirt sales – a consequence of having sold them now for immediate cash injection.

There was some pressure on Laporta at the start of this summer to fall back on Barcelona’s youth policy. But he felt building a team made in the club’s famous ‘La Masia’ academy would set the side back years. 

They would have to settle for not winning the league and not reaching the latter stages of the Champions League. He felt that was riskier than selling off assets because it would make it harder to attract investment and top players.

Currently Barça is still a club players want to join. Lewandowski told his agent he only wanted to join them, Raphinha turned down Chelsea to move to the Camp Nou, and Kounde has insisted he wants to do the same. Laporta felt too many years in the doldrums and that allure would fade.

The 60-year-old stands with former Leeds winger Raphinha at the Brazilian’s Barca unveiling

Laporta’s solution to Barca’s financial struggles has been to boost revenue with sell offs

Barcelona were told by La Liga last window that their permitted squad spend was minus £122m and that for every 10m euros they wanted to spend they needed to generate £33m first.

This was a consequence of their £453m-wage bill being massively in excess of what they were generating, especially when losses from recent Covid-affected seasons were factored in. Laporta’s solution has been to boost revenue with sell offs.

He proposed to club members that they sell off 49 per cent of the merchandising arm Barça Licensing and Merchandising (BLM) and a total of 25 per cent of future TV rights revenue.

He was given the go-ahead and soon agreed a deal to lease 10 per cent of future TV rights over the next 25 years to American investment firm Sixth Street Partners in a deal worth £174m. 

He then signed off a further 15 per cent to the same fund and the agreement to lease 49 per cent of the club’s merchandising arm remains an option. The three deals could bring in between £504m and £608m in total.

The Barcelona chief pictured with Thierry Henry during their pre-season tour of America

That is what has given them leverage with La Liga to spend freely again. This isn’t about debt. To be bemused as to why Barcelona are able to do these deals when they are supposed to owe a billion, is to go barking up the wrong money tree.

Most big clubs have debt – money owed because of stadium rebuilds or because of owners who have gone from the club and decided that the money they put in, they weren’t ‘giving’ it, they were ‘lending’ it and now they want it back.

Barcelona were the ‘Billion euros club’ before the pandemic. They were making near-on a billion, spending near on a billion, and their debt was a billion.

It certainly wasn’t prudent but it was not overly dangerous, until a global pandemic wiped out the football tourism industry overnight.

Most of their creditors know in the long-term they will be able to pay. They still have one of the biggest global fan bases in the world. The reopening of stadiums and flights to the city have sent revenue up once more and they have also borrowed big from Goldman Sachs so they can pay off lots of their short-term smaller creditors. The debt is managed now.

Laporta just needed to speed up the move back towards pre-covid revenue levels and he has done that with the deals with Sixth Street. If La Liga are satisfied with the new revenue streams they will allow Barcelona to register all their new signings before the start of the season.

Two things remain to be seen: whether or not these financial manoeuvres are going to be enough or if they also need to force Frenkie de Jong and Memphis Depay to leave the club to bring down the wage bill. And if the raids on the Premier League continue with them signing Cesar Azpilicueta who Xavi wants regardless of Kounde’s arrival.

Then will come the billion euro question: can the club bump its revenue back up towards the billion a season level, justifying the massive gamble, to mortgage its future?

Frankie de Jong’s Barcelona future is entirely dependent on the club’s financial situation

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