Lionel Messi was a cash incinerator for Barcelona, now Gerard Pique is the hero as pay-cut helps ease financial meltdown

THAT byword for football fashion, Barcelona, have been caught with their shorts well and truly down.

Do we feel the embarrassment? A tiny bit perhaps.

After all, their style was magical, their players of great accomplishment and most lovers of the game applaud them for what they regard as virtuous supporter involvement in football affairs.

Advocates of people power repeatedly pointed to the Nou Camp to back their case.

We all know that supporters and players are of greatest importance to any professional club.

But pleasing them both, regardless of financial common sense has been their route to ruination.

Plenty of our clubs have discovered that: Bury went bust and were expelled by the Football League, many others have been on the brink.

There might have been other excuses: none of them is available to Barca.


Only four years ago they were ranked fourth most valuable sports team in the world, at £3billion.

By 2018 they were the world’s highest paid sports team with an average first-team pay of £10m-a-year and we must imagine it would be a good deal higher had Neymar not been sold to Paris Saint-Germain for £200m.

Annual revenue was around £500m. Quietly though, pride was eating into Barca’s flesh.

Lionel Messi might have been the greatest player of all time but at a reputed £55m-a-year he was a cash incinerator.

He was, it is said, prepared to halve that wage in a new deal but still had to head for Paris.

A similar gesture on a much smaller scale was made by Gerard Pique to assist the signing of two new team-mates. Instantly, Barca were seen more as beggars than kings.

The job as hatchet man has fallen to club president Joan Laporta. He blames the whole mess on his predecessor, Josep Maria Bartomeu who resigned last year when it became clear he had floored the Catalan giants.

Each president is voted in by Barca official members, about 140,000 in number.

Such a level of democracy looks attractive, less so when the club is struggling and descending the Spanish barometer of success — winning LaLiga, the Copa del Rey or, most enticing of all, the Champions League, last secured for Barca in 2015.

Was it any surprise Bartomeu should seek to put a gloss on his stewardship by trying to win the Champions League again?

His 19 fellow directors couldn’t help with that, neither could his members, Messi nor his team who found new ways of losing big home leads, one of them to Liverpool.

Senseless overload and the debt grew and grew. Laporta put it at £400m — some say three times this figure — then tried to appease fans by claiming it would be cleared in two years.

There will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth as proud Catalans view the progress of PSG whose spending sprees owe little to bringing through great players of their own but rather to the well-oiled owners from Qatar Sporting Investments.

I prefer something more organic. Which is why my headline from Barcelona was not Messi’s move but Pique’s devotion.

The 34-year-old defender has ensured that Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia could register at Nou Camp. The guess among members is possibly in the future, the captain will be president.

And that isn’t for politics, it’s for love.

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