"Some festival, huh?" That's how Sergio Llull was dispatched after Barça's last basketball signing. The surprise is not that a sportsman uses well the two question marks and the vocative comma in a tweet, which could be. What has left the world of basketball amazed is how a club with serious economic problems can have such a template and has taken refuge in an ERTE in the midst of the pandemic of the COVID-19.
Basketball is a deficit section for Real Madrid and Barcelona. Florentino Perez valued to kill the section in his return to the white house, but he had to forget when he gave to look at the list of winners. It was a crime to erase with a stroke of the pen a part of the almost centenary club in which its 35 leagues and 10 euroleagues shine. He decided to put everything in the hands of those who know and was lucky that the project has not given him problems in which to take sides. It's basketball, it's not football and the methods are different. A confidence that has given important titles, more prestige and no economic benefit.
But in Barcelona everything has revolved around the checkbook. Bartomeu took over the club after Sandro Rosell's departure and announced with great fanfare his love of basketball and the idea of signing at least one season in which all his sections would be champions. It was not difficult, the professionalization of the club has always favored sports with little discipline in their field. The comforts and salaries that players from sections such as hockey, handball or indoor football have will never be available to their rivals. And that makes it easier for you to compete and even win.
Llull denounces in those three words and the emojis of tickets flying that the Barça has jumped the bank with the arrival of Nick Calathes. A 31-year veteran point guard who had previously played for the NBA or Panathinaikos and is apparently the express request of his new coach Sarunas Jasikevicius. Another bomb transfer to the bench for being one of the most sought-after in the market.
And that leaves Pau Gasol. The former player of Barça has shone in the NBA the last 17 years, but the injuries have made him stop and rethink his future. The Euroleague and the ACB (in that order) are a good call to assess whether your body responds at a lower rate than in the best league in the world. Gasol could sign for two seasons, but his figures would be light years away from what he has won in the USA. His last contract in the Spurs was for more than 15 million dollars per season. Unthinkable in Europe where the best paid player is, curiously enough, Barça's Nikola Mirotic who earns around 8 million euros a year.
Barça has raised the suspicions of the basketball world and has enervated much of society. In football, the club had to sell valid players like Aleñá in December to balance their numbers. Now there is talk of spending 100 million in the summer to sign Lautaro. This is now joined by basketball with the arrival of Calathes, something that has allowed the departure of Tomic and his almost 3 million salary. But the renewals are no less than seven figures in a squad that moves around these numbers: Thomas Heurtel (2.9m euros), Cory Higgins (3.5m euros), Adam Hanga (2.5m euros), Victor Claver (1.3m euros) and Alex Abrines (1.8m euros) ... almost 33 million euros in salary mass and a total budget of 41 million euros, the highest in Europe. For example CSKA has 40.7m euros, Real Madrid 40m euros and Khimki 33m euros.
Barça's basketball section has borrowed the worst vices in football. Modeling a team with a checkbook, hiring a coach for the stands with more past than present and forgetting about the youth team. It is the song of the swan of Bartomeu when the time runs out to him. He knows that good players do not guarantee titles. He has seen it in football and suffered it with Real Madrid of basketball. The first team is in bad shape, Xavi will arrive from the hand of another president and has decided to bet everything on basketball where it is not worth winning the ACB to be profitable. The candy is played in Europe every three days and it does not bring benefits either, although it gives a lot of reputation.
And without a defined sponsor everything is more difficult. In indoor soccer the team is called "Barça" and the hole in salaries is close to 3 million. In handball, the total loss reaches 7 million euros with a decadent ASOBAL and a European competition under minimums. In hockey the losses are about 3 million.
It is clear that the financial department of Barcelona has lost touch with the subject of sections. They are sports that make the economic hole bigger if your main source of income does not bring in anything extra. Football money has been mismanaged with unassumable signings like Coutinho or Dembelé, high chips from veterans that don't add up, the lies in the amount that was paid for Neymar... a snowball that is now an avalanche and threatens to derail the balance sheets. Bartomeu has cold sweats. No wonder. Outside the fight for the League, his most viable economic option is to win the Champions League. Four matches with which he could pocket some 20 million euros more than he has already accumulated from matches won and from overcoming phases.
If the accounts don't balance, Laporta's shadow will put the board of directors in check. One soçi had the ex-president and his management on the ropes. They came close to guaranteeing the 27 million losses they generated in 2006. Bartomeu wants to close without economic decline and leave through the back door as soon as possible, but in 2021. His unbridled decisions will force the next tenant to build a new club model. He will have to decide whether a 1.70m Argentine will remain the rock on which everything rests. Even basketball.