Barcelona’s latest crisis concerns the future of one of their brightest homegrown talents.
The club’s continued failure to register Gavi as a first-team player with LaLiga threatens to result in a situation where he could leave the club for nothing.
If the 18-year-old were to be available on a free transfer, it would surely start a transfer scramble between Europe’s giants for the world’s best young players.
Ahead Sunday’s El Clasico against fierce rivals Real Madrid, we take a look at what the future might hold for Barca’s diminutive midfielder.
The state of play
Gavi signed a four-year contract at Barcelona last September that tied his future to the club and included a prohibitive £866million release clause to ward away outside interest.
Yet the Catalans’ problematic financial issues meant that LaLiga refused to allow Barca to register the midfielder as a first-team player.
Gavi’s new contract had a clause stating that the La Masia graduate could leave on a free transfer if the Blaugrana had not managed to register him successfully by the summer of 2023.
Barca could only do so during a transfer window and took legal action to force the league to ratify the new deal. The Mirror reports that a judge has now lifted this precautionary measure.
The decision was made because the table toppers allegedly filed documents late. This opens up the possibility that Gavi’s contract is invalid and that he would be available for free in the summer.
With the young Spanish international conceivably available on a free transfer, clubs around Europe will be monitoring the situation very closely.
Gavi is the current holder of the Golden Boy award that is handed to Europe’s best young footballer. Drawing comparisons with Barcelona legends like Xavi and Andres Iniesta, he has already won 17 caps for his country.
The starlet appeared at the recent World Cup, where his mix of dribbling, close control and tenacity were all on display. He has made 36 appearances for Barca this season, playing in all but one of their top-flight fixtures.
If available, Spanish managers such as Mikel Arteta at Arsenal and Pep Guardiola at Manchester City would surely love to add the teenage compatriot to their options.
Liverpool look set to make major midfield reinforcements this summer, Manchester United need a partner for Casemiro, while Chelsea are seemingly committed to signing the best young talents around.
It would be a massive setback for Barcelona if they lost Gavi for nothing. They have already been informed that they will be unable to sign new players unless they raise £178m.
With the club’s debts thought to be in the region of £1billion, they are walking on an economic tightrope as they try to balance complying with LaLiga rules with competing at the highest level.
An early elimination from the Champions League has not helped matters. The Catalan giants were already likely to have gone into the summer needing to sell at least a couple of big-name players.
Barca controversially went on a massive spending spree before this season started, funding their squad restructure by pulling financial levers that included selling off future broadcasting rights.
The decision was widely questioned, not least because the club already had quality homegrown players in Alejandro Balde, Pedri and Gavi.
El Clasico clash
It is not often that El Clasico gets threatened with being overshadowed by what is essentially a contract dispute.
Barca could open up a 12-point gap over Los Blancos with a win, making the game at the Camp Nou a potential title decider.
Although wrestling back the LaLiga crown will give home fans reason for short-term positivity, losing their homegrown gem would point towards a troubling future.
What will happen at the end of the season remains to be seen. For now, Gavi can only concentrate on helping Barca get back into the habit of winning trophies.