BSP-01 New president to bring hope of recovery at crisis-ridden Barcelona





New president to bring hope of recovery at crisis-ridden Barcelona

MADRID, March 5, 2021 (BSS/AFP) – The week that began with the former
president in prison will end with a new president in power as Barcelona hope
Sunday’s elections can be a turning point for a club seemingly locked in

Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa were all at Camp Nou on Wednesday
to see Barca stage a dramatic comeback against Sevilla, overturning a 2-0
deficit in extra-time to reach the final of the Copa del Rey.

But whoever is voted in by Barcelona’s 110,000 members has a much tougher
‘remontada’ to pull off, faced with a club in crippling debt, whose greatest
player could be about to leave and whose reputation has been repeatedly
dragged through the mud.

Rock bottom perhaps came on Monday when the club’s former president Josep
Maria Bartomeu, forced to resign in October, was arrested, spending the night
behind bars after Catalan police raided offices at Camp Nou as part of an
investigation into corruption and misuse of funds.

“For the image of the club it is not good,” said coach Ronald Koeman on

It could also have been last August when Lionel Messi, who joined Barcelona
as a 13-year-old boy and became their greatest ever, tried to leave for free,
citing a clause in his contract and a club that had “no project or anything
for a long time”.

Or even a month before, when they were demolished by Bayern Munich, an 8-2
defeat in the Champions League the club’s worst ever loss in Europe, an epic
humiliation made more deflating only by the fact so many had expected it.

There was also a first season without a trophy in 12 years, consecutive
losses to Real Madrid, public rows over pay cuts and six board members who
resigned. In any other year, they all could have been definitive failures.

– ‘Outdated leadership’ –

“Nobody can deny the current crisis is the result of bad government and
outdated leadership,” wrote Ernest Folch on Thursday in Diario Sport. “Barca
can finally wipe the slate clean.”

For Laporta, Font or Freixa there will be no quick fix, no sponsorship deal
or game-changing signing that can wash over a crisis caused by years of
mismanagement, misspending and mistrust.

There could also be more upheaval to come. With a new president, Koeman’s
job as coach immediately becomes uncertain, despite the Dutchman overseeing a
broadly encouraging season that could still end with victory in the Copa del
Rey and perhaps La Liga, if Atletico Madrid lose their nerve.

Font, in particular, has floated his campaign on the idea he could bring
Xavi Hernandez in as coach.

Decisions will also have to be made on veterans like Sergio Busquets, Jordi
Alba and Gerard Pique, who have given the club so much but whose peaks years
are clearly behind them.

And if some departures come with sadness, others would bring relief, even
if finding buyers for the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti, even
Antoine Griezmann, will prove difficult in a market depressed by the

To ease the club’s gross debts of 1.2 billion euros ($1.44 billion), the
new president will be counting down the days until fans return to the stadium
and club shops, but they will have to be creative too.

Laporta insists the renovation of Camp Nou must be a priority while Font
has talked about a 100-day “crash plan” and the need to make better
commercial use of Barca’s international audience. Freixa has said he already
has a shirt sponsorship deal in place worth 60 million euros per season.

They will all know the quickest way to save money would be to release
Messi, whose contract costs Barcelona 139 million euros a year, according to
details published by El Mundo in January.

“Economically speaking, I would have sold Messi in the summer,” said Carles
Tusquets, the president of the club’s interim committee, to RAC1 in December.

Messi’s departure could allow others to step forward while at the same time
facilitating a shift to a more dynamic, vertical Barcelona, in line with the
mode of Europe’s current elite.

Or he could be part of the revival, a leader for the next generation,
convinced to stay by the ambition of a new project, president and, perhaps,

For an incoming regime, there would be no stronger vote of confidence than
Messi’s signature on a new deal.

Whatever happens, a resolution to Messi’s future will at least be a
solution, allowing Barcelona finally to unite again under a renewed sense of
direction. At the very least, new leadership brings hope.

BSS/AFP/GMR/0929 hrs