Barcelona’s president says the club’s debt now stands at $ 1.6 billion

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Barcelona president on Monday presented a grim picture of the club’s financial health, saying its debt had risen to 1.35 billion euros ($ 1.6 billion).

Joan Laporta blamed the former administration of Josep Bartomeu for the “dramatic” situation at the club, which ultimately led to the departure of Lionel Messi. Laporta accused Bartomeu of countless “lies” and said he and his board of directors should be held accountable.

Laporta said the club had losses of € 481 million ($ 567 million) and negative net worth of € 451 million ($ 532 million), making it difficult to negotiate with players.

“Our salaries represent 103% of the club’s total income. That is 20 to 25% more than our competitors, ”said Laporta in a press conference. “We found ourselves in a difficult position to renegotiate the players’ contracts.”

The club lost star Messi to Paris Saint-Germain this month for failing to give him a new contract that complies with the Spanish league’s strict financial fair play rules.

The club’s debt was nearly $ 460 million ($ 460 million) related to player salaries, Laporta said. Bank debt accounted for more than $ 670 million ($ 790 million) while membership losses accounted for about $ 40 million ($ 47 million). The impact of the coronavirus pandemic was € 91 million ($ 107 million), he said.

Laporta were among those targeted by some fans in the Spanish league opener on Sunday when they beat Real Sociedad 4-2. There were banners in front of the Camp Nou criticizing Laporta and accusing him of not doing enough to keep Messi up.

Some also criticized Bartomeu, who recently published a letter denying any wrongdoing during his tenure. Bartomeu resigned last year amid financial struggles and its aftermath with Messi.

Gerard Piqué said on Sunday that he would have to accept a pay cut so that the club could register some of their new players before the opening game against Sociedad and that other seasoned players such as Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto would do the same.

Laporta said the club intends to cut salaries by about 200 million euros ($ 235 million) and the focus will be on promoting young players for now. Some of the players signed in the off-season came as free agents, including Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero.

Laporta said that despite the “complicated” situation the club are in, he believes that in a few years everything will be resolved.

“We are not afraid at all. We are highly motivated, ”he said. “It is a great challenge, but we are able to master it.”