Barcelona have announced the emergency signing of Leganés striker Martin Braithwaite, who has joined the Catalan giants for $19.5 million (€18 million).
A club statement on Thursday confirmed the 28-year-old has signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at the Camp Nou, which comes complete with a $324 million (€300 million) release clause:
In a rare exception, the Spanish authorities permitted Barcelona to sign a player already registered in Spain (or a free agent) after Luis Suarez was ruled out until May following knee surgery and winger Ousmane Dembele saw his season brought to an early end by a ruptured hamstring.
The decision has been widely condemned by sections of the football community, however.
Barcelona allowed young attackers Carles Perez and Abel Ruiz to join AS Roma and Braga, respectively, in January (both with an obligation to purchase at the end of this season). Ruiz’s transfer to Portuguese club Braga will include a buy-back option, though Ben Hayward of the Evening Standard wrote Perez’s move to the Stadio Olimpico includes no such clause.
And while Barca are one point off La Liga leaders Real Madrid, Leganés lie in the midst of a relegation battle—in 19th place and two points from safety—and have just lost their top scorer.
The club’s general director, Martin Ortega, told reporters on Thursday:
“The current regulations are against the integrity of the competition and against the right that all of us clubs have to compete on equal terms. It is almost irreparable damage, but we will put all our efforts into solving it.
“Barcelona knows the damage it has done [to us] with the departure of Braithwaite… We believe the rule is unfair. Barcelona has benefited from that regulation. The injured party is Leganés.”
Braithwaite—who has scored six times in 24 league outings this season—will be the fifth Dane to represent Barcelona’s senior side and the first to pull on Blaugrana colours in 24 years.
Michael Laudrup—who left the club in 1994—is by far the most famous example in this regard having won four league titles and the 1992 European Cup with the Blaugrana. Compatriot Thomas Christiansen was the most recent, although he failed to make a single league appearance for Barca prior to his 1996 exit.