La Liga must register Barcelona’s Gavi, Spanish court rules

The frenzied final days of Europe’s mid-season player swap market – that whirlwind of spending and selling known as the January transfer window – are always full of drama. Rumors fly. Deals are done. For most clubs, the final hours, which arrived on Tuesday, are spent in last-minute haggling over new player prices.

At FC Barcelona, ​​the Spanish club trapped in a years-long financial crisis, the end of this year’s window was even stranger than usual: as most of their rivals roamed the player market, Barcelona went to court to keep one of his own.

The crisis was caused by the club. After spending heavily on new talent last summer despite repeated warnings that its spending breached league cost controls, Barcelona have been told by the Spanish league that they cannot register new players until she could not find any savings or new income. That hasn’t stopped the team from offering a new contract to Gavi, a prodigiously talented teenager who is one of the club’s most valuable assets.

The new contract meant a new higher salary and, most importantly, a new league registration. The league balked and refused to register Gavi. And so Barcelona turned to a court in their hometown, and on Tuesday they got the decision they were looking for.

In a statement, the club said it had persuaded a local commercial court to require Spanish league officials to register 18-year-old midfielder Gavi before the deal window closed at midnight. The court had accepted Barcelona’s argument, the club said, that the league’s failure to register the player caused the club “serious and irreparable harm”.

The Spanish league, known as La Liga, was not represented at the hearing. He said he would study the decision before deciding on next steps, but he signaled his battle with Barcelona over his financial controls was not over.

“If the court tells us to register Gavi, we will,” a league spokesperson said. “And if there are grounds for appeal, we will appeal.” In the event of a successful appeal, the league, the spokesperson said, would cancel Gavi’s registration.

Gavi’s new contract deal highlights the dire financial situation Barcelona continue to find themselves in, even after their president, Joan Laporta, returned to power in 2021 on a promise to restore the club’s reputation and finances after a fiscal collapse that had sent FC Barcelona to the brink of bankruptcy.

Laporta managed to raise funds quickly. Many, in fact, under a scheme in which Barcelona sold the club’s assets – including years of commercial rights – to outside investors. But instead of using this influx of cash to balance the books, Laporta embarked on a massive shopping spree, bringing in a slew of new players. The acquisitions left the club’s fortunes dependent on sporting success, coupled with the need for even more new sources of income.

The results have been mixed. Barcelona are top of the Spanish league with half the season remaining, but a humiliating – and financially disastrous – exit from the Champions League in the group stage has raised fresh doubts about their financial prospects.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has explained this week why Barcelona can’t register Gavi. In the league’s view, he said, the new deal would put Barcelona in breach of financial limits when it comes into effect.

“The problem with not registering Gavi stems from the fact that this is a registration that takes effect next season and has no effect in the next six months,” Tebas said in comments reported by the Spanish media this week. He said Barcelona’s budget shortfall next season would be over €200m – over $217m – based on current revenue projections, “so it doesn’t seem appropriate to accept this listing. “.

With the Spanish league unequivocally refusing to circumvent regulations to allow Barcelona to register more players, the club’s board pleaded in the local court.

In their submission, made on Friday, the club said not being able to sign Gavi to their new contract – which they agreed to in September – by the end of the January window “would involve player free agency. and would therefore cause serious and irreparable problems. too bad for FC Barcelona.

If the ruling is upheld, La Liga’s decade-old tax regulations, which had been developed with input from clubs in an effort to reduce volatility, would be rendered unenforceable, with teams able to circumvent the regulations by challenging them in court. civil courts. Barcelona have largely been an exception in failing to meet the designated spending cap, which is calculated as a percentage of each team’s revenue from their football operations.

Over the past few months, the league has moved to tighten these rules further by limiting the impact of the type of asset sales Barcelona have used on teams’ salaries and player cost caps.

nytimes sport

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