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Despite massive financial woes, Barcelona splurged big this offseason, signing multiple star players for the 2022-23 La Liga season. To register these players, though, Barca must balance its books further. The Spanish soccer club is seeking creative solutions, but one doesn’t seem great. Barcelona is currently looking for star midfielder Frenkie de Jong to revert to his old contract and forgive back wages. And the Barca board is not just asking. They assert that the contract involves criminality and that De Jong and his agents could face criminal charges if they don’t agree to new terms. 

The Athletic recently dropped a bombshell report by David Ornstein. In the article, Ornstein reveals that the Barcelona board is strong-arming Frenkie de Jong to get him to revert to his former contract. 

The club is “alleging the terms given to him by the club’s previous board involved criminality and provide grounds for legal action against those involved.”

On October 20, 2020, De Jong signed a two-year extension that reduced his salary during the pandemic and deferred $18.3 million across the next four years. Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu did the extension deal with De Jong and his team. Bartomeu lost his job (along with the entire board) shortly thereafter. 

Now, current president Joan Laporta is asserting that “Barcelona are in a position to initiate criminal proceedings to establish what happened in relation to the signing of his contract and ascertain where responsibility resides for the supposed wrongdoing.”

This move has brought on strong comments from the chairman of the Dutch players’ union (in De Jong’s home country), Evgeniy Levchenko, who has implied “that De Jong might be a victim of extortion” by Barca. 

Both Chelsea and Manchester United are interested in the 25-year-old star, but it’s unclear if Barcelona will accept the fee, if the teams will pay De Jong’s deferred money, or if De Jong would accept the move. Despite the club’s shady maneuvers, Ornstein reports, “De Jong’s preference is to stay with the 26-time La Liga champions.” 

The Catalan club can’t register summer signings until it balances its books 

Frenkie de Jong of Barcelona during a 2022 friendly.
Frenkie de Jong | Jose Breton/Pics Action/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Threatening Frenkie de Jong with legal action is just one thing Barcelona is doing in a desperate move to add more players this offseason. The club is under strict guidelines from La Liga to bring in more money than it spends, and it is trying desperately to balance its books. 

As of early August, La Liga still won’t let Barcelona register summer signings such as Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen, and Jules Koundé, per Sid Lowe of The Guardian

The club thought it was in the clear, reporting to La Liga €667 million in profits from the sale of future television packages. That deal, along with an agreement to sell 25% of Barça Studios and a sponsorship deal with Spotify, brought the club’s summer profits up to €850 million.

However, a La Liga audit found that €150 million of the television deals sale came from a company set up by Barcelona called Locksley Investments. 

As a result of La Liga not accepting Barcelona’s creative accounting, the team will continue to try and sell players, negotiate salary reductions, and sell off big chunks of their media futures to try and get the new players in. 

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