Undeniably, Barcelona is a winning club on the pitch. However, many assert that the club is not always able to pull it off in the transfer market, particularly when it comes to selling players. Are people just jealous of the seemingly unrivaled success the Catalan club has achieved over the past decades, or is the Barcelona approach to the transfer market a flawed one?
This current transfer season exemplifies the validity in the claim that Barcelona often loses money in the transfer market. In the 2016/17 season, Barcelona has spent a whopping €92 million to bring in new players, but the club only received a disappointing €32 million sum in transfer fees for departing players.
The €60 million profit loss is compounded with the fact that Dani Alves, Sandro Ramirez, Alex Song and Martín Montoya all left the club as free transfers. Although that group of players, apart from Alves, may not even become first choice at their new clubs, they are certainly not valueless.
This summer's transfers clearly show that Barcelona does not capitalise on every penny of possible income, but is this truly reflect some wrong-doing on the part of the Barcelona board?
Let’s play devil’s advocate and examine a club that is “right.”
Many clubs gain tens of millions of euros in profit annually from transfers. These clubs buy players, primarily for the purpose of their footballing abilities, but also for their investment value. For example, the Portuguese club Benfica sold reigning Euro champion Renato Sanches to German giant Bayern Munich for €35 million in addition to €45 million worth of long-term fees. Considering that Benfica only paid 800,000€ for Sanches, the move was certainly a profitable one.
Sanches is just the latest example in a string of players that Benfica has acquired for low sums, molded into future stars, then sold for a high-profit fee. The transfers of David Luiz, Nemanja Matic, Angel Di Maria, and Fabio Coentrao have also led to considerably high deposits in Benfica’s bank account.
Benfica is a financially savvy club, and the Benfica scouts are obviously more than capable of identifying a player’s potential. In the past six years, despite the frequent loss of key players, Benfica has finished in no less than second place in their domestic league.
Obviously, this system works for Benfica, but would it work for Barcelona?
In short, no. Barcelona competes in one of the world’s most competitive leagues and is expected to win the treble every year. Barcelona is not a club that invests in players. Barcelona is a club that players invest in. Rather than being a stepping stone in a player’s career, Barcelona is the team players aspire to excel in and, hopefully, staying for the long term.
Barcelona is no longer a club to cultivate talent, particularly of those who are not La Masia graduates. In recent times, the Catalans are clearly focused on acquiring and enhancing players that have already proven their talent elsewhere.
During each transfer season, Barcelona strives to buy players that fill the needs of the squad. In order to make room for necessary players, the Blaugrana regularly offload those that are no longer useful to the club. With these goals in mind, the board must pay whatever price necessary for players that the club will definitely use, and the club is not primarily concerned with recouping transfer fees from players that simply need to be removed from the roster to make space.
Each club conducts business in a unique manner. Barcelona does not profit from the transfer business, and the current board do not seem to be to worried about that. There are plenty of other clubs that don’t profit from merchandise sale because fans are aware that the name on the back of the shirt they buy could make it quickly obsolete. Rather, Barcelona hires talent capable of producing an endless stream of trophies year after year.
Given the sporting success this strategy regularly brings to the Camp Nou, fans are kept happy and, as a direct result, supporters provide Barcelona with plenty of income through ticket and merchandise sales.
Barcelona is a unique club which operates in a certain manner so expecting the Catalans to function similarly to clubs of a lesser calibre is simply unrealistic.
By Marissa Blackman, columnist at Barcablog.