Lionel Messi, Jorginho and N’Golo Kante have been named on the 30-man shortlist for the men’s 2021 Ballon d’Or award.
The trio are among the leading contenders for the prize handed out by France Football, along with Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi ended his wait for a major international trophy when winning the Copa America with Argentina in the summer, while Kante and Jorginho both helped Chelsea win the Champions League.
Kante was UEFA’s Player of the Match in both semi-final legs against Real Madrid, as well as the final against Manchester City, while Jorginho was also integral to Italy’s Euro 2020 triumph.
There are five Chelsea players on the list of nominees, including captain Cesar Azpilicueta, along with five from Premier League champions Manchester City.
Harry Kane is among the 13 Premier League players nominated with England team-mates Phil Foden, Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling also included.
Manchester United duo Bruno Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah are also shortlisted.
Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski missed out on the 2020 award, with the 33-year-old widely expected to claim the individual award before it was cancelled by organisers.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta says he had hoped Lionel Messi would stay at the club and play for free before completing his summer move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Messi concluded his 21-year association with Barcelona at the start of August and left as a free agent because the Catalonia club were unable to fulfil their offer of a new contract due to their inability to meet the La Liga salary cap.
The Argentina international then signed a two-year deal with PSG after an emotional farewell at the Nou Camp.
“There came a time when both parties saw that it would not be possible. There was disappointment on both sides,” Laporta told radio station RAC1.
“He wanted to stay but they also had a lot of pressure because of the offer they had.
“I hoped Messi would do a U-turn and he would say he would play for free.
“I would have liked that and I would have been all for it. It is my understanding La Liga would have accepted it. But we cannot ask a player of Messi’s stature to do this.”
Laporta also said that La Liga were willing to allow Barcelona to keep Messi if the club agreed to a deal with investment fund CVC Capital Partners, which would have seen the Spanish top-flight give up a percentage of its commercial rights for the next 50 years.
Despite rejecting the deal at the time, along with Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao, Laporta said that Barcelona could be open to a restructured deal in the future.
“We do not need more debt,” said Laporta. “I understand La Liga clubs are suffering. We have not ruled ourselves out of this operation but they have to change it. They are trying to reformulate the deal.”
Barca to play away from Camp Nou for a year
Laporta also confirmed that Barcelona will play at another stadium for up to a year when the club starts its planned modernisation of Camp Nou stadium.
Laporta said that he wants to begin the long-delayed overhaul of the Camp Nou in the summer of 2022. He added that the work will last three to four years, but that the team will only need to find another home for a maximum of 12 months.
“We are considering different possibilities, but the strongest candidate is the Johan Cruyff Stadium,” Laporta said.
Johan Cruyff Stadium is where the women’s team plays and forms part of the club’s training complex on the outskirts of Barcelona. With a capacity to seat only 6,000 spectators, Laporta said the club wants to increase that to 50,000 if the men’s team plays there.
Another option, Laporta said, would be for the team to play at the city’s Montjuic Stadium. The municipal facility hosted the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Summer Olympics and was home to Barcelona rival Espanyol for several years.
Camp Nou is already Europe’s largest soccer stadium with 99,000 seats. The club wants to increase its capacity to 110,000 while also refurbishing its surrounding area, which includes a pavilion for the club’s other sports, the museum and stores.
To finance the operation, Barcelona are in talks with Goldman Sachs for the investment bank to loan the cash-strapped club 1.5 billion euros (£1.27bn). The financing plan needs to win a vote by the club’s members.
Laporta inherited a club near bankruptcy when he won elections in March. He had also led the club from 2003-10.
“(The new Camp Nou) is fundamental for the viability of the club and its immediate future,” Laporta added. “The impact it will have for Barca is critical so that we can compete with our competitors who have already done what is needed.”
Real Madrid took advantage of last year’s pandemic lockdown, when no fans could attend matches in Spain, to spruce up its Santiago Bernabeu.
Barcelona’s plans to redo the Camp Nou have met with several delays over the past decade.
Barcelona’s accounts presented a loss of €481m (£409m) for the end of the 2020-21 financial year – but how has it come to this?
In August, Barcelona president Joan Laporta opened up on the “very worrying” financial situation when revealing the club are €1.35bn (£1.15bn) in debt.
A summary of their accounts at the closure of the 2020-21 season shows the club recorded a 26 per cent, €224m (£191m), drop in revenue from the previous year, citing the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as a primary reason.
Barcelona said the estimated impact of Covid-19 is €181m (£154m), mainly due to the inability to open both the stadium and other club facilities.
Operating expenses increased by 19 per cent to €1.136bn (£967m), an all-time record figure at the club, while transfer income was €56m (£48m), a decrease of €92m (£78m).
Analysis: A complete mismanagement
LaLigaTV presenter Semra Hunter on Sky Sports News:
“What has happened here? The previous board completely mismanaged all of the funds and money they had at the club.
“Laporta essentially reconfirmed they had €1.3bn in debt, and explained the reasons they got to that point. There are many reasons, but the most important are that they overspent on contracts, they overspent on salary raises, overspent on club management, on singings, and they made singings when they didn’t even have money, like Antoine Griezmann for example.
“On top of that they were paying for things on credit, so they would go to banks and ask for about €100m on a loan, and they would also do this without passing it through the general assembly, which is where the members of the club would vote on these.
“According to Laporta, they were all improvised, there was no financial planning, and in fact had they been a business, they’d have been in the red and would have had to file for bankruptcy, and would have been dissolved.
“But because this is Barcelona, as soon as this new board came in, they refinanced the whole project, and have tried to turn things around, cutting costs wherever they can. It’s going to take them a while to sort it out.”
Analysis: Why sacking Koeman could cost nearly €20m
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Spanish football expert Semra Hunter believes Barcelona president Joan Laporta is struggling to find a suitable replacement for manager Ronald Koeman, while the club may also have to pay the Dutchman €12m (£10.3m) if he is sacked
LaLigaTV presenter Semra Hunter on Sky Sports News:
“Koeman is still the manager, and a lot of that has to do with whether Laporta wants to spend the money on sacking him or not, and whether he can find a replacement, which at this time there isn’t.
“According to reports, sacking Koeman would mean a severance package of €12m. On top of that, there are reports that if he doesn’t complete a third season, they would have to pay him back the €6m that he put up to pay to the Dutch federation to break his contract to go and manage at Barcelona.
“So he would be owed around €18m to €20m, which is a huge amount of money for Barcelona to pay right now.
“They must decide whether they want to get rid of him, but it will be determined on whether Laporta can find a replacement for him, which at the moment they don’t currently have.”
Barca CEO explains club’s Super League support
Barcelona’s CEO has said the club supported the European Super League to enforce tighter financial controls on teams as UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) model plays into the hands of state-backed clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.
UEFA launched the FFP regulations in 2009 to aim to stop clubs running big losses through spending on players although the organisation relaxed the rules following the COVID-19 pandemic, removing the obligation to break even.
The rules came under scrutiny following Qatari-backed PSG’s transfer activities last summer, in which they signed Barca’s all-time top scorer Lionel Messi as well as Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Georginio Wijnaldum on free transfers while paying huge wages to beat their rivals to the players.
Abu Dhabi-controlled City, meanwhile, paid a Premier League record £100m to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa.
Debt-ridden Barca, by contrast, were forced to slash their wage bill this summer due to La Liga’s far stricter financial regulations. They have been allocated a maximum budget of €98m (£83m) for this season, a huge drop from €347m (£295m) last campaign.
“For us the Super League was about creating a more attractive competition oriented around the issue of FFP. We have to make a deep reflection on what happened this summer,” Ferran Reverter told a news conference on Wednesday.
“UEFA is opening the door for clubs to inject money and the spending ratios are going wild. Along with La Liga, we believe in a more sustainable model. If UEFA keeps going down this path it will favour the state clubs while damaging Barca’s brand.”
UEFA did not immediately respond to Reverter’s comments.
President Aleksander Ceferin told the European Club Association last month UEFA was looking at a new model of financial control, without giving details.
“It is time to question the old ways and the traditional measures,” he said. “It is now time to seriously work together to put in place a true direct cost control system.”
Barcelona, Real Madrid and Juventus are the only remaining supporters of the Super League, which was announced in April but quickly unravelled following the withdrawal of the six English clubs and then Atletico Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.