It’s been more than five days and Barcelona legend Lionel Messi is still a free agent. While an agreement between the two parties is in place to extend the Argentina skipper’s stay at the club, the sorry state of Barcelona’s finances has hindered the Blaugrana’s efforts to put a new deal on the table.

"We want Messi to stay and Leo wants to stay, everything is on track,” said Barcelona president Joan Laporta as per El Transistor.

"We have the issue of fair play, we are in the process of finding the best solution for both parties."

The problems for Barcelona aren’t just confined to Messi though. Despite making some eye-catching signings like Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, the club is unable to register any of those players. The reason behind this is La Liga's salary cap rules. 

As things stand, the Catalan giants need to shed a whopping €200 million from their wage bill to register new players, including Lionel Messi, who is now considered a new player as per the transfer market.

Sport states that Barcelona had a salary limit of €671 million two years ago, but the losses endured during the pandemic brought the figure down to €348 million. The team, in fact, finished last season exceeding the limit, but La Liga president Javier Tebas won’t allow that again going into the new season.

What is a salary cap?

As Goal explains, the salary cap is the difference between income and expenses. A decrease in income from last season brought their salary cap down. In the 2019-20 season, the club announced losses of €97 million and those figures spiked significantly this year.

What does Barcelona need to do?

Laporta recently had a meeting with Tebas, who expressed his discontent towards being lenient about the matter, meaning the club has to offload some of its players to comply with the finances. Barcelona has more players in their squad than the permitted count of 25 players per team in the La Liga. 

While the idea of trimming down the wage bill seems easy, in reality it is a double-edged sword for Barcelona. For example, Philippe Coutinho and Samuel Umtiti haven’t featured for the club regularly but command big wages, with two years yet left on their respective contracts. Terminating those early would mean the Blaugrana will have to bear more losses.

The Catalan club have already begun their clear out by selling Junior Firpo to Leeds United for €15 million, Jean Claire-Todibo to Nice for a fee that could rise up to €15.5 million. Others on the list are Matheus Fernandes, Konrad de la Fuente, Juan Miranda and Francisco Trincao, but these small scale sales are just a tiny drop in the ocean. 

If they meet the rules, players with big salary caps like Miralem Pjanic, Antoinne Griezmann, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba will have to be sacrificed.

If not, Barcelona can also reduce the wages of the players mentioned above should they agree to the same. This would lighten the burden to an extent and will give Barcelona enough room to work with. 

While Barcelona’s effort of reducing their wage bill is on track, it will take more than selling Firpos and Mirandas to comply with the rules, meaning we could see some big-name casualties being forced out of the Nou Camp in the Catalans’ bid to comply with financial fair play rules and La Liga’s salary cap.

Featured photo: AFP / Josep Lago