Barcelona, once hailed as the model for all football clubs to follow, are now £1.15bn (€1.35bn) in debt, according to their president Joan Laporta.
The five-time European champions’ financial crisis was highlighted last week by their inability to afford a new contract for Lionel Messi, their greatest ever player.
Laporta said Barcelona’s wage bill exceeded its revenue and that some income from TV rights had been advanced to the club to help cash flow.
“Barcelona has a negative net worth of €451m. What has been happening is very worrying,” Laporta said, blaming the previous regime for leaving “a terrible inheritance”.
Messi signed for Paris Saint-Germain last week after Barcelona found themselves unable to offer him a new contract that met Spanish football’s financial rules.
The Catalan giants, 26-time champions of Spain, have mostly signed players on free transfers this summer due to their huge debts.
They were only allowed to registers two of them, Dutch forward Memphis Depay and former Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, after current captain Gerard Pique agreed to a pay cut.
Barcelona take out £468m loan to get back on track
Laporta, who returned for a second spell as president earlier this year, said Barcelona would regain their financial footing thanks to a £468m (€550m) loan taken out at 1.1 per cent interest.
“The situation is dramatic, but we have good news,” he said. “The strategic plan based on our credibility and experience, on the assets that Barca have, makes this situation temporary. I think that in a couple of years, the club’s economy will be healthy.
“We are not scared at all. We are highly motivated and positive and morale is high. It’s a big challenge but we are capable of overcoming it.”
Barcelona won four Champions League titles in 10 seasons from 2005 to 2015, their combination of fan ownership, homegrown talent, possession-based attacking football and superstar Messi making them the darlings of world football.
But in recent years lavish expenditure on hit-and-miss signings has caught up with them. They took a short-term loan to sign Antoine Griezmann in summer 2019 and previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested after police raided the club’s offices in March this year.