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After Messi, what next for Barca?

  • Published at 08:31 am August 12th, 2021
Messi
An image of Lionel Messi being taken down outside the Camp Nou in Barcelona Tuesday Reuters

While the immediate post-Messi future might look bleak, in Fati and Pedri Barca have two of the best youngsters in the world on their books

While Lionel Messi's departure marks the end of an era for Barcelona, there is plenty more to be resolved at the Nou Camp before the season gets under way:

Money issues

Barca have a gross debt of over one billion euros ($1.17bn) and years of profligate spending meant they flew too close to the sun once too often.

Even without the Argentine, their salary mass accounts for 95% of all income - in football, it is considered viable and healthy to have your wages to income at a maximum ratio of 70%.

That is all the more remarkable given they topped the 2021 Deloitte Football Money League despite the pandemic and are officially the world's highest-earning football club.

Fat still to be trimmed

With football stadiums still at a reduced capacity in Spain, matchday income will still be relatively low, meaning Barca must reduce their wage bill in order to register new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Emerson and Eric Garcia.

Indeed, with just two days until the start of the 2021-22 La Liga campaign, Barca have not officially registered any of their new arrivals with the league, meaning it is unlikely any of them will feature against Real Sociedad this weekend.

Loanee Yusuf Demir is eligible to play as he was signed by Barca's reserve team.

They have tried, without success, to get senior players on bumper deals to take wage cuts, meaning players must be moved on in order for them to form a new-look Barca.

One of those is likely to be 18-year old Ilaix Moriba, who is into the final year of his deal and refusing the terms offered to him by the club; one knock-on consequences of the economic mismanagement being that players see the contracts previously handed out and want parity.

Moreover, with Aguero out injured for the first three months of the season, and largely brought to the club to appease Messi there is an off-chance they might look to find a taker for the forward in order to get his wages off the books.

Faith in youth

While the immediate post-Messi future might look bleak, in Ansu Fati and Pedri Barca have two of the best youngsters in the world on their books.

They must harness their talents and build a squad around those two for the next decade - just as they did with Messi previously.

However, with all of world football well aware of just how burdened they are financially, selling one of - or both - the duo could realistically be their most viable way out of the mess they are currently in.

Whether fans could stomach such a move is another question altogether.

Time to shine

One school of thought surrounding Barca was that players were too comfortable knowing they always had a "get out of jail free" card in that they could pass the ball to Messi, or a moment of individual brilliance from him would get them out of a hole.

Without that safety net, and the former No. 10's sheer presence, could the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho and co. finally step up and justify the extravagant price-tags that Barca shelled out on them?

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