Barcelona will take “drastic” steps to arrest their decline and famous faces will be pushed towards the exit door, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu has declared.
In a startlingly explicit message, Bartomeu said the time had come for change at Camp Nou, and he committed to swingeing cuts of the playing staff.
Bartomeu said some players have already been told their time is up, and that for others a quiet word would soon be coming.
The Barcelona squad contains a host of players over 30 whose best days are behind them, and for whom diminishing returns have already set in.
Speaking to Barca TV, Bartomeu said: “The technical secretariat and the new coach will take drastic measures and affect certain players who must leave with all honours.
“They are players who have given their best and have given Barca the best years.”
He explained: “Some of them already know it because they have been spoken to in recent times. A conversation will be held with the players to explain their situation.
“The first thing to do is talk to the players first out of respect for them. They are legendary players who have to leave with all the honours, but you have to talk to them.”
@jmbartomeu: “Barça have a salary limit problem. There is money, but Covid-19 has caused the income to decrease and, therefore, we have to reduce the team’s salary mass to be able to bring in new players” pic.twitter.com/gHjTywGC4Z
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 18, 2020
Bartomeu knows a big rebuilding job is coming but the financial impact of COVID-19 is taking a major toll on the club’s finances.
Their wage bill is the highest in Spain, and much of that money is going to the experienced players Barcelona would like to find new homes.
Despite repeatedly flagging financial concerns in recent weeks, Bartomeu said: “Barca has money. The problem is the wage bill. We have salary limits based on income. Therefore, we have to reduce the team’s salary mass to be able to bring in new players.”
He said conversations would take place with new coach Ronald Koeman about the likes of long-time target Lautaro Martinez, the Inter striker that Barcelona fancy bringing to Spain.
“We stopped the negotiations a few weeks ago and we will see what the new coach and the secretariat think,” Bartomeu said.
Cashing in on young talent would be an easy way to raise funds, but Barcelona are minded to look towards their La Masia academy to bolster the ageing first-team squad rather than as a production line from which other clubs can pick off talent.
He said Barcelona have received offers for young striker Ansu Fati, adding: “Many clubs love him, but we don’t want to sell him. He knows it.”
As well as insisting Lionel Messi will stay, Bartomeu said there are “many others who are non-transferable”.
“There are many young players,” he said. “[Marc-Andre] ter Stegen, [Clement] Lenglet, [Frenkie] de Jong, [Nelson] Semedo, [Ousmane] Dembele, [Antoine] Griezmann. They are players who we count on a lot and who have come to spend many years at Barca.”
With a matter of weeks until the new Spanish season begins, Barcelona must act quickly, with Bartomeu’s reputation just one of many at stake.
He will leave after next year’s elections, and would want to depart on a high.
He vowed: “It will not be a transitional season. Every year we fight for all the titles. Barca’s obligation as a benchmark club is to always go 100 per cent.”
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