Why are FC Barcelona trying to sign Max Aarons on loan rather than permanently?
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Let’s be honest, there is a surrealness about FC Barcelona and Norwich City holding talks over a potential transfer - but what many people are asking is why are the Spanish giants trying to get Max Aarons on loan?
Given their perceived financial superpower and prestige in the game - it seems utterly bizarre that Ronald Koeman’s men want to take a Championship right-back on loan.
That’s no disservice to Max Aarons or the Canaries - the 20-year-old has the attributes, talent and tools to play at the highest level - but Barcelona’s interest would conventionally result in a bid rather a temporary solution.
As we stand, there is no agreement between the clubs. There is an impasse surrounding City wanting an obligation to buy at the conclusion of the deal rather than the option to buy being proposed by the Catalonian side.
But before delving into why City want that clause included in any deal - why can’t Barcelona just pay the fee the Canaries want for their star right-back?
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Like clubs at all levels, the club are seeking to cut their cloth due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic - for the first time in their history, Barcelona are considering selling naming rights for the Nou Camp.
Barcelona are currently believed to be in €460 million worth of debt - that is set to increase as the period without supporters prolongs. Commonly, the club have €70m to spend on incoming transfers plus what they receive for outgoings.
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In the 2017-18 season, Barca became the first club in any sport to hit $1 billion in annual revenues. The club have lost about €50m in ticket sales and its museum, €39m in TV income, and between €20 and €25m in commercial income from its shops, football schools, and other aspects of the business.
The total hit to revenues is already between €120m and €140m. When you add an inflated wage bill to the balance sheets - then you begin to understand the scale of the situation Barcelona find themselves in.
During lockdown, the club’s playing squad agreed to 72% wage cuts - but that has since expired.
Koeman enters a club in a financial and political crisis. The campaign for Josep Bartomeu to resign following a poor sporting performance has increased.
The club is still wounded over the Lionel Messi saga - for now, it looks like the Argentine will stick around. But his contract expires next summer and he is a major part of their club, both commercially and on the pitch.
That context presents the realisation that a permanent, long-term deal for Aarons during the current window is unsustainable - Barca simply don’t have the finances at present.
Which is why a loan proposal would be viable - but only with an obligation to buy Aarons upon the conclusion of that loan.
Barca have discussed including an option to buy - making a season-long loan, effectively, a trial period. They would hold the cards and City would be unable to plan for the long-term and recruit a replacement.
Furthermore, if Aarons’ option doesn’t get activated, then Barca simply return him to sender and City are left with a player who may not have played many games in La Liga and his development stifled.
For Barca, an option, rather than an obligation, makes sense. They get to watch Aarons in close quarters and make a more considered view about signing him permanently at a later date.
Under Stuart Webber’s stewardship, the Canaries don’t roll over and let superior teams tickle their tummy whilst robbing them blind. Long-term strategy will be at the heart of negotiations and the Welshman will ensure City drive a hard bargain as per the reputation they have forged in the game.
If Barca did entertain an obligation to purchase at a fee City deem to be acceptable - then the Canaries stand to make more money than they might if they sold him outright - depending on how they structured the overall deal.
Barca would have to pay a sizeable loan fee on top of a future fee that would include clauses based on performance - for example, winning La Liga or getting an international cap.
To caveat that, that loan fee may become included in the overall package. But an obligation would give City a clarity and allow them to dip into their funds to source a replacement with the knowledge that money would arrive in a year anyway to cover the hole left.
As for agreeing personal terms, clubs often sound out a player’s representatives prior to making contact with a club. That essentially allows a buying club to gauge whether a player is interested and what their contract would look like.
Similar to the Liverpool and Jamal Lewis saga - there is the element that Barca could be using Aarons as a ploy to recruit their number one target - Sergino Dest.
But, for Aarons’ agent, having it known that his client has been the subject of interest from Barcelona doesn’t do any harm and similarly to Lewis, could lead to interest from elsewhere.