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The Barcelona Crypto Comeback

FC Barcelona sees an in-house cryptocurrency and a move to the metaverse as an antidote for the football club’s struggles with debt and identity in the post-Lionel Messi era.

Our conventional world of dollars and euros hasn’t exactly treated FC Barcelona well of late. Staring down ongoing debt issues, the iconic Catalan soccer club is reportedly considering some significant moves to build itself back up among the world football elite.

Club President Joan Laporta said at the Mobile World Congress this week that a Barcelona NFT collection is coming — and he teased minting an official cryptocurrency and venturing into the metaverse as well.

The last time we checked in on Barça — the world’s most valuable soccer club at a Forbes-estimated $4.76 billion — it was considering a record-setting $320 million sponsorship deal with Spotify that would’ve included naming rights for the hallowed Camp Nou stadium. Those deliberations and discussions were among the reported reasons behind now-former CEO Ferran Reverter’s departure. Now, Laporta wants to turn the page and take back the narrative with an assist from blockchain technology.

“We’re developing our own metaverse, [so] we rejected the chance to be associated with any cryptocurrency enterprises,” he said of declining to work with third-party crypto companies and instead building things in-house.

Perhaps the metaverse really can be the way to drag the club out of the depths of financial mire, because the physical world hasn’t been the source of so many solutions over the past year.

A November agreement with NFT marketplace Ownix was reportedly canceled when the lead advisor on the partnership was arrested on charges of cryptocurrency-related fraud, and enormous losses fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic meant that revenue could not catch up with the club’s massive payroll. That meant Barcelona ultimately could not re-sign all-time great forward Lionel Messi, who had to leave for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Currently No. 4 in the La Liga table and a whopping 15 points behind archrivals Real Madrid, Barcelona did receive some reinforcements during the January transfer window. Young center forward Ferran Torres came over from Manchester City for $62 million, veteran striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived on a free transfer from Arsenal, and the club surprisingly kept 24-year-old French forward Ousmane Dembele, who scored and dished out two assists in a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

For a storied club that’s fallen on much tougher times that it’s typically used to, Laporta and Barcelona are hoping that the metaverse, NFTs, and crypto will soon help not just to change the team’s financial fortunes, but kick-start a new era for one of the world’s proudest, most popular clubs.

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