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Analysis

As the debt at Barcelona rises, so do the votes against Bartomeu

Abhishek Khurana

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Header Image by Alex Caparrós via Getty Images

On Monday, Barcelona announced losses of 97 million euros in the 2019/20 season, as the debt continues to go up and the social and institutional pressure on president Josep Maria Bartomeu increases.


The whole world, from a health, social, economic and financial perspective, has been affected by the global spread of the COVID–19 pandemic. This has had negative repercussions on the sportive industry as well. Such a situation has given rise to the complexity of logistics, final and legal issues in the football ecosystem.

A prime example of such issues would be the recent transfer market activities itself. Having financial constraints on human resources, which are the main driver of this industry in itself, have led to a decrease in the volume of transactions and in the transfer fees as well. We have more or less witnessed a buyer’s market this window. This means many clubs have exploited this expensive nature of sporting structure by getting the players at a lower price which would have been impossible in the last transfer window.

Also, the number of swap and loan deals has increased too due to financial constraints put in place. The only good thing about this whole scenario has been a seismic shift in the already inflated market of valued human assets given that the Neymar effect has been reduced to some extent. Sadly, FC Barcelona has claimed that they have been one of the most affected clubs by COVID due to their diverse financial structures in place. 

A statement from the Barça’s official website read: “The 2019/20 season economic year ends with losses of 97 million euros ( $114 million ), caused by the effects of COVID–19”.

The Catalan club has been severely hit by the pandemic, with no fans allowed at their Camp Nou stadium. The lack of tourists and visitors due to restrictions in the city added much to this loss. 

And, as of today, FC Barcelona has fallen victim to this global pandemic heavily due to terrible management, which in return is headily influencing the sporting project. As is often the case with Barcelona’s financial affairs, you need to dig a bit deeper to fully understand what’s going on.

What do the account books say?

By looking at the finances from the latest report published by FC Barcelona, emphasis is put on the fact that the projected revenue by the club was 1.059 billion euros, which would have set a new record for any football club, counting it in the 2015–2021 Strategic Plan. But, since the club has suffered the effects of COVID–19, it is estimated that the net result for the 2019/20 year would have been a 2 million euros in profit, rather than the 97 million euros loss currently.

Revenue overview

There has been an impact of coronavirus on the overall revenue streams for the club. As per the latest report released by the club, the blaugranas have experienced a reduction of 19% from their projected revenue of €1,047 million. Within this section, in the table below we can see the impact on different areas:

Barcelona debt Bartomeu

The closure of stadium premises, along with the revenue from the tours has also taken a loss of 67 million euros in the club’s financial book. The major factors have been the absence of games for two months and a drop in matchday revenue from the fans.

Furthermore, broadcasting revenues have also been affected by the lack of games. TV rights have incurred a loss of 35 million euros from the projected revenue of 284 million euros.

Moreover, the most affected area is the commercial revenue which is down by 9% from the last year. It includes a loss of 35 million euros due to the closure of the club’s megastore, another 35 million euros due to the effect on sponsorships and tours, and the remaining 2 million euros in terms of not able to conduct some events on the premises.

Barcelona debt Bartomeu

As discussed earlier, the transfer market has taken a U-turn with the financial constraints in place. The value of the human assets has been reduced to a large extent and the clubs who have to rely on the player trading profit’s model to survive have been impacted to large extent. In the case of FC Barcelona, there were two major deals that couldn’t go through on the deadline day due to the same reasons.

Barcelona debt Bartomeu

Expenditure overview

Despite taking certain measures such as slashing down the salaries of the players as much as to 70% during the pandemic, it could only benefit the club for 42 million euros. As for the non-sporting salaries, they have also been affected by the inclusion of non-sports staff in an ERTE, helping them save a mere 2 million euros (–3%). 

Management expenses dropped by -10% i.e, 30 million euros. This variation is majorly due to the games played behind closed doors, a decrease in travel, cleaning, etc.

Barcelona debt Bartomeu

The financial debt of the club

In all this what matters the most is that Barcelona’s debt has doubled within a year, i.e, 379 million euros, which could have been 254 euros without the COVID scenario. Plus the statutory debt / EBITDA ratio is at 3.66, which gives us a mirror image of the current transfer market participation of the club. Such ration constraints, the club its ability to sign a new talent with higher wages and fees. Such a high debt / EBITDA ratio shows the inability of the club to cover its debts. The below table shows the calculation of debt from the balance sheet and EBITDA from the income statement:

Barcelona debt Barcelona

On the other hand, one of the major objectives of the 2015–21 strategic plan of the club was to keep net debt below 2xEBITDA to maintain the financial sustainability of the club. But looking at the latest account books that have completely gone out of hands. In spite of all of this, the club officials have confirmed that they plan to go ahead with the Espai Barca project with the support of Goldman Sachs, which includes the renovation of their Camp Nou stadium, at a cost of 960$ million over the next 30 years.

In a desperate attempt to balance the books, Barcelona this summer made almost all their players available for sale in the transfer market. In this process, the club certainly managed to clear out heavily waged players such as Luis Suárez (£290k / week), Ivan Rakitić (£150k / week), Arturo Vidal (£165k / week) and Nélson Semedo (£75k / week).

Along with the club’s financial crisis, FC Barcelona management is also facing calls to resign. A major loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League campaign followed a major backlash from the club’s socios and fans, giving rise to the scenario of “no vote confidence”. Currently, as the situation stands the required number of votes i.e., 16,525 valid signatures have been reached, meaning the Josep Maria Bartomeu might become the first president to be dismissed for a vote of no confidence if two-thirds vote against him in the referendum that should take place within 20 working days.

Five days shalt thou labor, as the bible says. In my life, The seventh day is the Lord thy God’s. The sixth day is for Football. That pretty much describes my life when not working. I am here to share my ineffable love for this game among other football enthusiasts. | Contact: [email protected]

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  1. Avatar

    Pit

    15/10/2020 at 09:21

    Very good article in a financial point of view but then very deceptive title. You claim in the title to talk about the possible correlation between the number os voters against Barto and the debt of the club. I saw none of that.

Analysis

Barcelona vs Ferencvaros: The Game through Numbers

Soumyajit Bose

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Photo by LLUIS GENE / AFP

A detailed look into the game by numbers and statistics and tactics as FC Barcelona kicked off their UCL 2020-21 campaign in style.


FC Barcelona played the first group stage game of UCL 2020-21 at home against recent Hungarian champions Ferencvarosi Torna Club, also called Ferencvaros. The Budapest outfit were playing against Barcelona in a competitive match for the very first time (previous meetings had all been friendlies), and naturally, Barcelona started cautiously. However, shaking off the rust from the International break and the disappointment of the loss against Getafe in the weekend, Barcelona came up with a dominant display and ran out as winners scoring five and conceding just one.

Team Structures

Barcelona yet again fielded a 4-2-3-1, with an unchanged defence from the game against Getafe. The double-pivot changed slightly, with Miralem Pjanic starting as Frenkie de Jong’s partner. Ansu Fati and Francisco Trincāo started as wingers flanking Philipe Coutinho at attacking midfield, with Lionel Messi starting as the false 9.

The touch-based heatmaps and the pass-map show some interesting tactical changes from the last two league games. First of all, and most importantly, this was the first time this season that both flanks were very well utilised. Having Trincao and Fati, both adept at playing on the wing, greatly helped the team build and attack through both sides.

While Antoine Griezmann added a lot of defensive cover while playing on the right flank in the previous games, Trincao did his share to help out the team, too. He did well in attack while also putting in a brilliant defensive shift – Griezmann’s absence was not felt at all.

Secondly, the positioning of Frenkie de Jong was a lot advanced, bringing the best out of him. Unlike the last two games, where he was placed much deeper and wider on average, last night he had more freedom to venture up and also drift a bit centrally. On average, he took up a higher position than Pjanic and took part in a lot of the attacking moves, while the Bosnian was tasked with the deeper progressions.

Ferencvaros started out in a 4-2-3-1 as well, but soon evolved into a 4-1-4-1/4-5-1 structure and settled into it for the game. Their midfield was very compact, and mostly stayed deep. Their idea was to use counters, with Tokmak Chol Nguen the only player taking up advanced positions to lead their attacks.

Attacks and Buildups

Barcelona posted very impressive attacking stats for the game.

Barcelona dominated possession as usual, but the biggest positive takeaway are the pressing numbers. The Blaugranas posted impressive PPDA (Passes per Defensive Action) numbers as compared to their opposition. It also indicates that a lot of the game was played in the opposition’s half, showing dominance in the game. The shot maps and the xG flowcharts show how imperative Barcelona were throughout the game, and that a lot of the shots were excellent chances to score.

Next we take a look a gallery of all the goals scored by Barcelona, and the lone goal scored by Ferencvaros to discuss the difference in ideologies of the two teams.

While Barcelona’s first goal took a came solely as a result of moments of individual brilliance by Messi, all of the other goals came through wonderful intricate buildup. Both sets of wide players were very well-utilized, who were able to play out through pressure no matter where the buildup started.

The buildup to the second goal culminated in a wonderful lofted pass by Frenkie de Jong to Ansu Fati, who slotted it past Ferencvaros’ hapless goalkeeper with a first-time finish. Fati was involved in the third goal as well. An intricate set up of passes in the final third led to Messi finding Fati with a pass, who back-flicked into the path of Coutinho, who made no mistake slotting it into the bottom corner.

In contrasting fashion, Ferencvaros were very direct. It was very clear that Tokmac Nguen was their main danger-man. Nguen created a couple of really dangerous moments in the first half with his threatening runs across the backline. The first effort was called offside, while the second led to him setting up Isael for a thunderous shot against the post.

He was also at the helm of their sole goal of the game, running at Pique, who was unable to keep up with Nguen and hauled him down into the box, leading to a penalty.

Passing

Barcelona’s passing was on point against Ferencvaros, helping the team to cover all zones perfectly, stretching the pitch and making it difficult to defend. Most importantly, there were a lot more passes into the box as well exchanges inside the box than the previous two games. Particularly impressive were the utilization of zone 14 and the half-spaces. Here are the dangerous passes portrayed:

The key passes came from multiple zones as well and from multiple sources. Messi had 4, Roberto, Pjanic, Coutinho, and Fati had 2 each, while de Jong, Trincao and Dembele had 1 each:

Finally, we compare the passes completed in the final third by each team, quantified by field tilt – it’s the number of final third passes completed by a team, divided by the sum of final third passes completed by both teams, expressed as a percentage.

Barcelona completed a much greater number of final third passes almost throughout the game except for a small window when Pique received a red card and sent off for fouling Nguen, and Barcelona had to play with 10 men.

Defence

Barcelona’s defence closely resembled a 4-4-2 block with Philippe Coutinho and Lionel Messi high up, and sometimes in 4-5-1 as Messi was the sole player allowed to stay up.

After Pique’s red card, Barcelona took up a fairly compact 4-4-1 shape. Ferencvaros were pushed back into their own half for the bulk of the match as Barcelona won the ball back fairly fast. The only time Ferencvaros managed to peg back Barcelona was after Pique’s dismissal. Here is a glimpse of the defensive activities of the two teams, showing Barça’s high turnover rate:

In fact, the third goal that Barcelona scored early in the second half came from a great bit of pressing. Messi aggressively pressed the central channels into Ferencvaros’ third and the box, so the ball had to be passed out wide, where Trincao led the charge. This led to a misplaced pass that was intercepted by Pjanic, and Trincao recovered the loose ball. A lovely sequence ensued, and Barcelona were up 3-0 in a blink.

Issues

Having discussed the defensive structure and the pressing intensity, now it’s time to discuss some of the issues. In this particular game, the issues were entirely in defence. Ferencvaros – Nguen in particular – exposed the problem Barcelona’s centre backs have against quick attackers. The Norwegian’s runs dragged the defenders all over the place, mixed with the high line that Barcelona employs, it resulted in nightmares as it often does.

Whenever the fullbacks were pushed high, and possession was turned over, Ferencvaros directly took on the two defenders left on the pitch. They could not bypass the press by making long passing sequences, so they quickly circulated ball out wide or to the deep half spaces before launching long balls to Nguen, and sending out supporting runners. One such run led to Pique’s red card.

This current batch of Barcelona players seems a tad too card-happy. Lenglet has already seen a red card in the Liga. Roberto, Dest, Pique – all of them have seen yellow cards just 4 games into the season. This is not healthy, especially given the lack of quality depth in defence.

Coutinho has been playing well, to say the least, and there are little to no doubts over his performance. However, his positioning – which surely is a tactical quirk of Ronald Koeman – is very interesting. Instead of the usual central positions a nominal 10 would take up, he is primarily operating in the left half space. There is quite a bit of overlap with Ansu Fati. Its clear that Barcelona are trying to achieve wide overloads on the left side whenever they can.

Coutinho performances are not an issue. His role, on the other hand, might be. (Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

This system, however, needs a striker and more directness to function. As it stands, the team is deploying two 10s in Messi and Coutinho. While this has worked well against weaker oppositions, it remains to be seen how well the lack of vertical staggering can hold up against stronger opposition.

The Substitutes

The story of this game will be incomplete without mentioning the substitutions. Junior Firpo returned from injury and came on along with Pedri and Ousmane Dembele around the 60-minute mark. Ronald Araujo had to come on after Pique’s dismissal, while Sergio Busquets replaced Pjanic later to help see the game off.

While Pedri got his first goal for Barcelona, Dembele’s brilliant dribble and tenacity in the box from where he cut back the ball has to be mentioned. Seven minutes later, the World Cup winner found himself at the receiving end of a pass from Messi and smashed home for the fifth and final goal.

Conclusion

After the drab showing against Getafe, this was a much-needed boost for the team before the El Clasico. Multiple scorers, good buildup plays, high press – pretty much everything except the red card was to the point. Next week’s UCL away game against Juventus will prove a stern test as well, and hopefully, we will see the best of Ronald Araujo in that game.

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