Monday, December 5, 2022

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Barcelona’s transfer gamble is already in jeopardy amid Champions League troubles

This is certainly not the virtuous cycle that Joan Laporta was aiming for. Barcelona instead face a cascade of likely events that could result in them dropping out of the Champions League in the group stage, with potentially far greater consequences.

After the irony of a thrilling 3-3 that will draw genuine global attention and electrify social media feeds, the Catalans need to beat Bayern Munich and Viktoria Plzen to avoid defeat by Internazionale. The numbers don’t look good.

They also make clear the very real risk to Laporta’s summer plan.

At the point where Barcelona need to make themselves as commercially attractive as possible, they could well fall into the less-noticed competition at the center of all their biggest moments.

And surely Xavi can point to the “cruelty” of the situation and “serious and inexcusable mistakes in the defense”. Many Barca supporters can also argue that they suffered the great misfortune of Robert Lewandowski who missed so many chances against Bayern, losing the handball to Inter and then two defenders through an international break.

But that’s actually part of the point.

Laporta has exposed the club’s financial future to football’s fickle fortunes. It was based on that. That was the warning straight out of the summer. While money affects the game more than anything else, its impact is not complete, especially when you’re playing against clubs with a similar financial profile.

This leaves a considerable possibility of error. That’s why any financial plan needs to have some kind of safety net built in, an allowance that something can go wrong. From the outside, that didn’t seem to be the case with Barca.

Because of this, the scale of the summer plan felt very risky at the time and now seems farcical.

To put it bluntly, exiting the Champions League will cost Barca tens of millions this season. It could cost them so much more in the medium term. It prevents the club from restoring the global star profile in the way Laporta aspired.

It should be stressed that this is not yet a financial crisis – and that they are not yet over – but it would be of enormous importance if this worst-case scenario for this season materializes in the first few months of the project. An elimination would really set back the plan and might require more hype.

Even some of Barca’s ‘Galactico’-esque signings, such as Robert Lewandowski, may only have had a season or two at this level. You were bought to win now; to make Barca great again now.

Another irony of it all is that matchday four of the group stage has been more of a league-forming one of late. Then the wealthier clubs bring their resources to bear and reality prevails. That’s why there has been so little risk involved in so many final group games in recent years, and it shows again this season. Some of the groups have already lost their sense of danger. The paths are already set.

Ten of the bottom 16 spots are already occupied by the 16 richest clubs.

It’s hard to see that changing and we might only be left with one or two groups to play in. You only have to look at how Liverpool have utterly thrashed Rangers if there’s even the hint of danger. Likewise Tottenham Hotspur’s response to Eintracht Frankfurt. There is too big a financial gap.

Barca, meanwhile, had taken out a €600m long-term loan to pay off their debts and ensure they can actually assert themselves as one of the richest clubs.

It can fail spectacularly, in competition they need it the most. It should also be no coincidence that these fights were accompanied by renewed rallying calls for the Super League.

So far, Barca haven’t shown any new strength or sunlit Highlanders to come. They only pointed out the risk that was always inherent in this plan.

Many were blind to it. Now they can’t avoid it. It is very unlikely that they will escape elimination.

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