On Wednesday's OTB AM, Spanish football broadcaster Graham Hunter described Arthur’s transfer from Barcelona to Juventus as a “bookkeeping exercise”.
Juventus agreed an €80m deal for the Brazilian, with Barcelona set to bring in Miralem Pjanic for €70m from Turin.
“In which sane club would you sell a talented 23-year-old Brazilian?” Hunter asked.
“Pjanic is a very good footballer. He may in the short-term bring more to Barca than Arthur would, but he’s 30,” Hunter said.
Barcelona also announced on Tuesday that Getafe have taken up their purchase option to sign on-loan youngster Marc Cucurella. The sale of the promising 21-year-old brings in €10m for Barca.
The deals have puzzled many observers but Hunter explained that it was part of a desperate effort by the Barcelona board to balance the books by June 30, the end of their financial year.
“Provisions in their statute say that if Barcelona’s debt is a certain percentage at the end of an economic year, then the board pays for it out of their own pocket,” Hunter explained.
“So what we’ve seen is them running around to save their own backsides. It’s been pathetic to watch.”
There's an added layer of complexity to the Arthur and Pjanic deals. On the face of it, it appears that Juventus are effectively paying Barcelona €10m to exchange Pjanic for Arthur, but the accounting treatment means that both clubs will report around €60m profit from this transaction.
The details of how this accounting works are explained in this Twitter thread by football finance expert The Swiss Ramble:
Reports that #FCBarcelona are selling 23-year-old Brazilian midfielder Arthur to #Juventus for €80m, while 30-year-old Bosnian playmaker Miralem Pjanic will move the other way for €70m, have left supporters of both clubs somewhat perplexed.
— Swiss Ramble (@SwissRamble) June 25, 2020
The move will add to Barca's profits during a year in which the club are in dire financial straits due to the impacts of the COVID pandemic.
This may only help in the short-term though and most worrying for Barcelona fans is that this type of curious transfer activity has become common in their recent history.
In the summer of 2019, they signed Brazilian goalkeeper Neto from Valencia for €35m as Jasper Cillessen went the other way in a separate deal for the exact same fee. Neto has only made one appearance since joining the Catalan club.
Paulinho joined from Guangzhou Evergrande in 2017 for €40 million. The midfielder played one season for Barca before returning to China on-loan. This deal was then made permanent in 2019 with the Chinese club paying a fee of around €40 million.