• Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

Barcelona on the brink amid arrests and elections

ByPatrick Caskie

Mar 9, 2021
The entrance to the Camp Nou

Embarrassing Champions League defeats, calamities contingency planning, an ageing core, and now a disgraced ex-president in custody; you might as well rename the club Barcewoena. However, this is not a laughing matter. This dangerous cocktail of crippling debts, poor on-field performance, and now former and current higher-ups at the club being detained poses a credible threat to FC Barcelona as an institution.

According to reports, police arrested Josep Bartomeu, the most recent Barcelona president, as well as the club’s current CEO, head of legal services and one more staff member in connection with corruption. Though they deny all the charges, many fans will find it difficult to empathise with the quartet. Some may see this jurisdictional scrutiny, though largely unrelated to their boardroom failings, as justice for their performance or lack thereof at Barcelona.

The actual cause of arrest, the involvement in the controversial “Barçagate” scandal, a smear campaign directed at individuals around the football club which spared few, not even Lionel Messi.

The high-profile leak of Lionel Messi’s astronomical contract to the Spanish media is suspected to be connected to the campaign; however, Bartomeu had abdicated the presidential seat prematurely due to growing pressures from the Barça faithful. It seems to have backfired as the story ran on front covers across Spain but appeared to leave Messi’s popularity and God-like status unchanged, with many coming out in defence of his wage bill. Many however found this problematic and, despite their fondness of the Argentinian, were disgusted at the wages modern-day footballers receive.

Some may shout freedom of speech and defend Bartomeu’s ability to express his disgust at some club members; however, it manifested into a nationwide smear campaign, which bordered on slander and surely affected the mental health of those targeted.

This whole affair is a relatively unprecedented situation in world football, especially at the game’s upper echelons. Spats and conflict are typical in all football clubs; however, a senior figure at a club overlooking a dissemination network targeted at his own club employees appears to be one of a kind.

This, another high-profile shortcoming at the legendary football club, could not have come at a worse time. The under-performing behemoth of world football has seen the past few years pass by with limited success for their standards. Bankruptcy fears, underwhelming recruits and some truly disgraceful Champions League performances have rendered the club a toxic mess that few beyond genuine fans would want to come near. With the prospects of no La Liga or Champions League success this season, a significant transition of power in all wings of the club is coming. The club’s presidential election has just concluded and a passing of the guard from legendary servants Messi, Pique, and Busquets to the younger generation appears imminent.

In the face of all the uncertainty, the only sure thing is that Joesp Bartomeu will not go down in Barcelona folklore as a legend of the club, having instead overseen its descent into a worldwide laughing stock.

A new man is now at the club’s helm: Joan Laporta returns to the Barcelona hot seat after an eleven-year absence. Winning 54% of the vote, Laporta’s central campaigning message was an assurance that Lionel Messi would see an extended stay at the Camp Nou. With the clout earned from overseeing the hiring and emergence of Pep Guardiola’s legendary side, Laporta enjoys many supporters, albeit ones who demand a second-coming of that epoch of success.

The novelty of replacing Bartomeu will last for a while; however, once Laporta’s Barcelona faces its first piece of adversity, it will be interesting to see the 58 year-old’s reaction. Barcelona faces an uphill battle in La Liga and the Chammpions League. With this summer being perhaps the club’s most important in decades, the hope is that a new man at the helm will hopefully lead to new triumphs.

Image: nikolaus_bader via Pixabay