For the first time, it was a summer when the two greatest players in the world were out of reach for the two greatest clubs in the world.

Even before the money poured into football so amazingly quickly, Real Madrid and Barcelona were target clubs, the kind of teams where it was suspected that pulling the jersey could trump any other success in a player’s career.

In order to keep the paintwork, both clubs have had huge expenses every year, the nature of ownership through membership makes the election of a new president like a political race, with all sorts of promises to the fans, regardless of the fiscal reality.

For a long time both of them were able to play their place in the global game to a large extent, the value of their businesses being higher than any other football club, despite the hundreds of millions of pounds in debt that were placed on them. But debt is only an issue if it can’t be serviced, and when the stadiums were full and football tourism was booming, there was little need to slow down.

But the landscape is very different now.

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Even before the pandemic, the mystique of Barcelona and Real Madrid seemed to be disappearing as other forces rose to challenge their previous dominance both domestically and internationally. Liverpool’s 4-0 demolition contract from the Catalans at Anfield Road in 2019 was the dagger through the heart and left Barca in a tailspin before everything was unraveled in March 2020.

Kylian Mbappé and Erling Haaland are in demand. Generation talents with time on their side, who are currently on stage as not entirely in line with their talent, have been connected to many clubs for several months, some connections more realistic than others.

In recent years it would have been an eye-catcher for both of them to find their way to the Nou Camp or the Santiago Bernabéu, as the torch was apparently given to them at the impossible task of filling the emptiness of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo if they decide To break up.

But money talks, and now the veil has been lifted on the Spanish giants, badly exposed by the pandemic and not currently a viable option for the best and brightest.

While Real can trumpet the signing of David Alaba and Barcelona, ​​Sergio Agüero, both are free transfer. In order to preserve the illusion of “everything is fine, nothing to see here”, their high salaries are offset by a few departures on the bill and a marketing boost, especially in the case of Manchester City legend Aguero.

Barca and Real, as well as Juventus, remain committed to the Super League plans and continue to run counter to UEFA by taking legal action against the European Football Association for hindering competition and the monopoly of European football.

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The truth is, they need the money and grimly hold on to see the idea that was so toxic to football fans, especially in England, catch on. They claim it is for the sake of the game, something that is difficult to accept as anything other than just for reasons of its own.

For Barcelona and Real, they have to keep up with the rest. Every club has suffered financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, with Liverpool posting a £ 46 million pre-tax loss and clubs across the continent suffering losses of around £ 7 billion as a result of the pandemic.

Liverpool, although their losses compared to their 43m profit, usually translates into a more limited transfer spending strategy for the Fenway Sports Group.

For people like Barcelona, ​​they need solutions quickly.

The club has £ 1 billion worth of debt, of which £ 645 million is falling in the short term, but they were able to find relief in the form of a £ 430 million loan from U.S. banking giant Goldman Sachs that allows a portion of the short-term pressures that the club was exposed to to be lifted.

Barcelona has been looking into the possibility of selling some of its off-field assets in Barca Corporate for some time, including digital assets, worldwide football academies, sports science groups and merchandising companies with a potential value of around £ 175million on it, despite this type of fundraising one Is a path that the club bosses do not want to take yet.

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Instead, they have focused their efforts on other ways to monetize their business.

For a club that is pretty tinny when it comes to what football fans actually want, Barca have opened their membership program, which is essentially the club’s property, to any fan around the world.

The program currently has around 140,000 members and brings in approximately £ 15.5 million (€ 18 million) in revenue per season, which is less than two percent of its total annual income of £ 785.3 million (€ 914 million) .

There were a number of conditions that had to be met in order to become a member, or “socios” as they are called. All of these conditions, some of which included being a family member of an existing “partner” or showing loyalty with a Barca “signing card”, have now been removed for anyone to become a member.

Elena Fort, spokeswoman for the Barcelona board, said: “From tomorrow, anyone who wants to can become a member. We will change the statutes so that registrations can be made electronically.

“We want to universalize Barça and everyone who wants to be part of this family. The challenge is to become the only club with more members in the world.”

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Fewer than 11,000 members are from outside Spain, and for a club that touches every corner of the world and has fan support in every country, this is seen as a small fraction of what membership could achieve.

It is the members who will ultimately vote in the elections who will run the club, with Joan Laporta returning in the role last month for a second term and being entrusted with handling the rubble of the regime from Josep Maria Bartomeu.

Laporta’s mandate is to resolve the financial problems presented while ensuring that Barcelona do not lose further ground to their European rivals.

LaLiga’s appeal to broadcasters is already well behind that of the Premier League, and with investors looking to get into what they consider to be an undervalued league when it comes to club ratings, more money will pour into England’s top league There is a risk that Barca and Real will push their noses further and lose their dominant position in the market.

To keep the established order of things in place, they know they need more money, and opening membership from 140,000 to hundreds of millions gives them the chance to move that two percent, £ 15.5 million annually, to a far greater number bring.