MADRID (Reuters) – Robert Lewandowski is the man of the moment in LaLiga with the Poland striker among a number of new signings for Barcelona as they try to dethrone Real Madrid, who added a Champions League title to their league triumph last season.
Barcelona became Europe’s biggest spenders in the close season, investing around 150 million euros ($155.21 million) to sign Lewandowski from Bayern Munich, Brazil winger Raphinha from Leeds United and defender Jules Kounde from Sevilla.
They also signed Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen and AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie as free agents, moves that were only possible after the club sold a 35% stake in their LaLiga TV rights for the next 25 years and a 25% stake in their audiovisual studio for some 638 million euros.
However, due to a deep financial crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and, restricted by LaLiga’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, Barca are still unable to register their new players ahead of the season opener on Saturday against Rayo Vallecano.
Barca are running against the clock trying to activate a final financial lever, along with their attempt to sell Dutch midfielder Frenkie de Jong which would enable them to get the green light from LaLiga for their new signings.
Their deadline is the end of the transfer window on Aug. 31.
Barcelona have also given a new deal to forward Ousmane Dembele in their efforts to end a three-year title drought, although the Frenchman only managed one goal in 21 league games last season.
Their last LaLiga triumph was in 2019, closing more than a decade of domestic dominance that had Lionel Messi as their talisman and also included three Champions League trophies.
But for the last few seasons Barca have struggled with an ageing squad, expensive signings that didn’t meet expectations and a financial crisis that meant they were unable to offer Messi a new contract, allowing the Argentine to sign for Paris St Germain last year as a free agent.
They recovered some pride on the pitch last season after they were knocked out of the Champions League in the group stage, finishing second in LaLiga with club great Xavi Hernandez as their new head coach.
Xavi, who played for the club between 1998 and 2015 winning a number of trophies, brought some optimism to a disillusioned fan base, who now have in Lewandowski an idol that they were missing after Messi’s departure.
That sense of hope brought 86,000 fans to Camp Nou last weekend to watch Barcelona thump 6-0 Mexican side Pumas in their final pre-season friendly before their opener at home against Rayo Vallecano. The club expects a sell-out crowd.
The question is whether all their players will be available.
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(Reporting by Fernando Kallas; Editing by Christian Radnedge)