Ferran Torres joined Barcelona but is not yet known as the club attempts to creatively deal with debt.

Joan Laporta was bullish, which is his usual mood on days like these. It was the first day in the rest of their lives. A sunny morning in the city. There were 13,513 people gathered at Camp Nou, a sign of optimism returning. The Barcelona president, who began singing while he was last there presenting Dani Alves & Xavi Hernandez, was radiant, ready to conquer the world. He said so.

This was huge. Ferran Torres, a Spanish player who had just moved to Barcelona, paid a EUR55 million transfer fee and EUR10m in additional fees. He was 21 years old and has been long regarded as the best player in his age group. He came from Manchester City. Torres, who was destined to be the forward line leader of Spain for the next ten years, has scored 12 international goals including a hat trick against Germany at a rate that is better than one goal per game. According to some reports, his salary will be in the region of EUR12.5m a year.

Although it wasn’t Laporta’s first major signing during his second spell, it was a significant one. It wouldn’t be Laporta’s last.

Laporta also said this.

If Torres’ arrival suggested that there was a shift — a signing they could get excited about — a player they had persuaded to sign and who they could still see there in ten years — then Laporta shouted about it. He didn’t back down when asked about the arrival that would transform, the player everyone desires, the signing that would guarantee everyone did exactly that. Could Erling Haaland also join? Laporta stated, “Everything is possible.”

Although it sounds somewhat non-committal, he did not say no. This was deliberate. He did however say that “We are still players in this market.” We’re back and eager to do good things, so everyone better prepare. Our status is back. Barcelona’s resurgence is a fact.

It all depends on how you define “resurgence” when it becomes a reality.

This is all you need to know. This is an eighth of Real Madrid’s budget and lower than Real Sociedad, Athletic Club and Villarreal. Let’s not forget England, where Watford boasts as much muscle. So the inevitable question recurred: How? How did they sign Haaland, you ask?

Haaland is irrelevant, so how could they sign Torres,

The short answer is no. They can’t. No.

Laporta said that everything was possible, but not all things are possible at the moment. That includes the registration of Torres. Mateu Alemany, the club’s director for football, stated that it should be done by Sunday. Torres tested positive for COVID-19. He is currently recovering from an injury. But, it is likely that the results will be available soon. They hope so. There is a plan. Problem is, hopes are terrible at not being fulfilled. The best-laid plans often gang aft of agley.

Barcelona wouldn’t be able to take Torres if he was healthy and there was a league match tomorrow. So, let’s return to the original question: How did Barcelona sign Ferran Torres.

The answer is split into two parts. The first part is the actual cost of signing, which can be easily explained. Barcelona will not pay much of the signing fee upfront. The salary is spread over his contract. Goldman Sachs has provided a EUR600m loan to the club, which will also provide EUR1.5bn for the renovation of Barcelona’s new stadium.

Where does the money come? That’s where. They believe that this is a sign they can’t afford to not do in football terms.

This is the first step, signing him up. It’s very simple. The league’s salary limit criteria is the second part of the registration process.

Conceptually and practically, there are two things: One is having the money, and the other is being able to fulfill the criteria. On some levels, the salary limit is more complicated. It’s simple and rigid on other levels. You will be denied registration of your player if you don’t follow the rules. That’s it. It is an automated system and the button you wish to click will not be clickable.

Barcelona’s salary limit is EUR97.7m. It was calculated based on what the employees spend and produce. They are not at the right limit, but they are miles above it. The actual amount they spend on salaries is more than EUR400m. People tend to think that the rules are meaningless, and bemoan another club for not playing fair with financial fair play. These questions will be asked: Why can they sign players? Is it worth having a salary that is four times the allowed limit and still not have any tangible effect?

It’s not without consequences. These are not rules that can be ignored or unenforced. Long-term financial problems cannot be ignored. It’s not right now. You may recall that they lost their best player, Lionel Messi, this summer. No matter what other factors were involved, it’s clear that this had a significant impact. Antoine Griezmann also left, but it was free. (At least for now: A EUR40m purchase clause is in place for a year. Luis Suarez, who won the league at Atletico Madrid in the previous summer, left for nothing. Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique both received pay cuts. Memphis Depay would not have been able play the first game of the 2021-22 season without Pique’s departure.

Each season brings new limits. The limit for Barcelona was EUR382m last year. It will rise again next year as the impact of the pandemic diminishes. However, it is unlikely that it will exceed their actual salaries expenditure unless that drops further. While you could theoretically sit in the same squad and make no changes, any new contract would violate those rules. In other words, you can’t renew anyone and you must comply with the salary limit to be allowed to invest. This means that the total should not exceed EUR97.7m in Barcelona’s instance.

This last part is impossible. It is impossible to give away some players to reduce their salaries. Unilateral terminations could lead to a lawsuit, which could be more costly than the savings. There is an alternative way out. It is possible to go over the limit but still invest. However, you must show that you have addressed the shortfall. The ratio of how much you can invest is 1:4. This means that for every EUR1 a club wants in their team, they must have saved EUR4.

A combination of savings and investments is usually used to fund any investment. However, to simplify it: You can’t sign a player who earns EUR1m per year by getting rid a player earning EUR1m per year. This would mean that you would have to get rid a player making EUR4m per year. The margin will grow if the player is very expensive. You can reinvest at a ratio 1 to 2. This means that a EUR10m player can give EUR5m of margin.

The current situation in Barcelona is that there is no way to register Torres. Finding this solution is their immediate challenge. The long-term plans are another matter, so some costs are delayed until then. Griezmann could receive EUR40m by the summer and may be able to sell other items. This isn’t an easy task, but it is possible. Laporta was bullish and excited as usual, but Alemany, his director for football, was calm, clear, and concise. This personality, together with his competence, increases the optimism that it could work.

Alemany already stated that players must leave before any player could arrive. They had signed Torres, despite no one else being available. He admitted that they knew when Ferran was signed that there wasn’t any salary cap. Ferran was an exception that we made because it was worthwhile. We are accepting that, and we’re exploring other avenues.”

Alemany said that if we can generate fair play [margins], then we will decide if other signings are possible; [the latter] will be determined by exits. Alvaro Morata is the most popular arrival, but they must first register the player they have signed. Only then can they consider other possible signings if they are successful in that.

These avenues can be creative, varied and time-sensitive. Some paths are more open-minded than others. Many solutions are short-term, and they mean shifting costs further down to a time they hope will make it easier for them to adapt and comply with financial regulations. This may be when money is incoming. Some of the summer plans will be scrapped. Memphis Depay and Sergino Dest are three players who have already left within one year of arriving. This is a sign that solutions won’t work. They work together, with their hands tied.

Yusuf Demir has stopped playing games. Barcelona would need to exercise a EUR10m buy option if he made another appearance. Xavi Hernandez’s comment this week is a good example of the delicate balance and the fine margins.

Barcelona’s manager was asked about his opinions during negotiations for Ousmane Dembele’s new contract. He said that Dembele was an important player and that he would like to see him continue at Barcelona. He said that Dembele could be world’s greatest in his position before, but it was not new how important and why. He said, “If Ousmane renews it will allow us make one or two signatures.”

Take a second to read it again. Dembele could leave, but savings will still be possible if he remains. At least for the short-term. Barcelona’s plan, or rather, their offer, is to reduce his salary, or at the very least spread what he earns now over the next years, and load some of it into his contract back end. It simply means that they depend on him. It appears that he holds the upper hand.

Dembele hasn’t yet agreed to a renewal, and it looks like he may not. There are more demands than there is offer and patience is running out. Time is also a precious commodity. Alemany acknowledged that he had been in contact with his agent for five years. The frustration was clear. “We have been very patient. They understood that we wanted him to stay, and he accepted our offer. We can’t delay much longer. We wait for a definitive answer to make the right decisions for the club.

Rumours have circulated that Dembele would be expelled to the stands in an effort to pressure him to leave or renew his contract now. This could even lead to him being charged a fee. But for Dembele, it’s not worth the risk.

Dani Alves was able to register after Sergio Aguero retired. However, Sergi Roberto could still be renewed to defer some salary. This shows how urgent Barcelona’s problems are. Alemany stated that it all depends on which players leave. However, the reality that this is not an easy task has been repeatedly shown. People say that you can sell a high-priced player. You can try it, so go ahead. Samuel Umtiti is not in a hurry to leave. Philippe Coutinho has been on the market for over two years. He may be ready to leave as another manager is unable to find a suitable place at the World Cup.

Alemany stated that they are working on it and are confident we will be able register Torres before Sunday. There is a player, and there is a strategy. There must be something.

Ferran stated, “I’m calm. I know that I can register.”