These are the best of days for a Barcelona fan. The best team in Europe with arguably the best three players on the planet in Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar. But there are storm clouds on the horizon as Barca tries to renew the contracts of Messi.
At first glance the renewals should not be an issue. Both players want to stay at the Camp Nou, and with a turnover of £482million (€608m) last season. Barca is one of the richest clubs in the world.
But richest and financially secure are two very different things, and with an unsustainable wage bill of 73% of revenue, €350 million of debt and the looming €600 million expansion of the Camp Nou.
These are difficult times for the Barca board who are struggling to renew contract of both Neymar and Messi, while lowering their wage bill.
Messi’s contract is up in 2018 and Barca have been working on a new deal that will take him through 2020 within the next three months. Barca will try and get away with not increasing Messi’s net salary of £14.8m (€21m) and instead focus on increasing his is bonuses and image rights. The challenge for the Barca board is that the Luis Enrique’s side keep winning, so the bonuses like the £2.8m (€4m) that Messi picked up for winning the Champions League keep on coming.
According to some Spanish reports, Barcelona finished up making a loss from their participation in the Champions League last season, despite winning it.
Then there is Neymar whose contract is also up in 2018. The Brazilian star will be looking for a sizeable bump in pay from the estimated £9.9m (€14m) net he makes now.
Barcelona’s financial problems is why we hear rumors of Manchester City and United linked to Messi and Neymar respectively. With stronger TV and commercial deals than their Spanish rivals, City and United can offer the two Barcelona stars a pay package that Barca will never be able to compete with.
But does this mean that Barcelona has no chance of resigning both of their stars? No. The La Liga leaders shirt sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways runs out next year. Negotiations are reported to have stalled after Barcelona pushed for an increase in the £40m-a-season (€57m-a-season) deal that was signed in 2013.
Barca also want to renegotiate the deal with Nike which earns them between £21m-£24.7m (€30-€35m) a year. But it is not up for renewal until June 2018.
The club also have plans to sell the naming rights to the stadium. An estimated £14m-a-year can be brought in by giving the Nou Camp a commercial ‘surname’ and US sports revenue strategists Van Wagner have been hired to find the right partner for the scheme before October of next year.
So Barca will certainly have the revenue to sign either Messi or Neymar. But signing both will be difficult. And after the Barca board finishes with these deals, it will be time to redo Suarez’s contract too.
Barca’s MSN is a joy to watch and having three of the best players in the world is something special. But eventually teams have to get their finances in order and that could mean that at least one of these three superstars will have to leave.
Do you think that Barcelona will be forced to sell one of its stars next summer?