Barcelona president Joan Laporta has revealed that the club’s debt has risen to €1.35 billion.

Laporta took over as president at Barca in March after winning elections that followed Josep Maria Bartomeu‘s resignation in October 2020. Laporta was left to deal with a series of off-the-pitch crises as the club struggled with financial problems which were worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As of March 21, 2021, the debt was €1.35bn,” Laporta said in a news conference on Monday. “Bartomeu was plugging holes in the short term and mortgaging the club in the long term. That leaves us a dramatic inheritance. To the initial debt of €617m, you have to add €389m on players, €90m in litigation, €79m in advance television rights, and €56m from the ‘Espai Barca’ project. In total, it’s €1.35bn.”

Laporta was very open about the financial issues for the club. The club lost superstar Lionel Messi, who joined Paris Saint-Germain last week. Laporta described it as “sad, but necessary,” after Barca was unable to agree to a new contract with Messi within the club’s strict La Liga imposed salary cap.

Only Gerard Pique‘s acceptance of a last-minute pay cut allowed Barca to sign Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia this weekend.

“We’re happy we resolved it with Pique, and we’re hugely grateful,” Laporta said. “Some players are more than just players. Pique is a club man who loves Barca above all. He’s seen that we’re in a difficult situation, and he’s done something that deserves praise.”

Laporta blamed the previous board of directors led by Bartomeu for the increased wage bill. Laporta said that Barcas’ wage bill had reached an unsustainable 103% of the club’s income.

“It isn’t true that the salaries rose to be able to compete with the ‘state clubs’ [referring to PSG and Manchester City] and the Premier League,” he said. “They spent the €220m from the Neymar deal disproportionately and at light speed. That is when the salaries shot up. We’ll have to change the model and invest in [Barcelona’s academy] La Masia, making more proportionate investments with more sporting logic.”

Last week, Bartomeu wrote an open letter in which he defended his administration and criticized Laporta’s running of the club.

“I have read [the letter] carefully, and it is full of lies,” Laporta said in response to Bartomeu’s letter. “It is an effort to justify unjustifiable management. It is an exercise in desperation, that looks to take advantage of a moment of unrest among Barcelona fans. They say they are not responsible for the 2019-20 accounts, but they are responsible until March 17, 2021. The numbers are [Bartomeu’s] board’s responsibility. Nobody will escape from that.”

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