Ahhh, that’s more like it. For longtime culers, a happy, consistently victorious Barça was kind of weird. So it’s in many ways reassuring to find that the team and the club have returned to its old, infighting, backbiting self.
— Factions within the board? (Check)
— A superstar unhappy with the manager? (Check)
— An allegedly lost dressing room? (Check)
As we all know now, current president Josep Bartomeu announced today that elections would be convened in the summer of 2015, to rid the club of the stress and uncertainty. And to adequately discuss this, we need to separate personal views from a broader, club-centric view.
This group has been a pox from the beginning. Back when I was against them and the effects of the reign weren’t as apparent, I was constantly asked why I wasn’t being fair, what I had against Rosell, etc, etc. Well … this. From false austerity to shoving aside players in heartless ways, from selling the shirt to misunderstanding the human side of managing a sporting club, the list of their flaws, from my very personal perspective, are many.
The prospect of an election makes me giddy with rapture, because it is the opportunity to vote these people far, far away from any semblance of Barça elected office. It’s also something that Bartomeu, rather than hiding behind the shield of club bylaws, should have done at his soonest possibility. These elections should have been last summer, when the club was throwing hundreds of millions of Euros around in an effort to save its collective hide by buying players galore. It didn’t work, and it didn’t work because of a series of meltdowns. “I am David Moyes, destroyer of worlds.”
It obviously isn’t just Moyes and the loss to La Real, any more than it is just Messi and his “blue flu.” It’s everyone all at once, gathering to ensure that the right thing has finally been done. They have done some good, but nowhere near enough to outstrip the bad, for me.
So no, I don’t like this board. But more importantly I like the notion that the voting members will be deciding upon its future.
But is there really a choice?
At the moment there are four potential candidates, only three definite: Victor Font, Agusti Benedito, Bartomeu and Joan Laporta. But as with it was with Rosell, there is really only one candidate, should he decide to run: Laporta.
In a Sport poll of possible candidates, Laporta got something like 89% of the vote. It’s doubtful he would even have to really mount a campaign. Just show up. I don’t believe that to be a good thing.
Jimmy Burns made the Laporta reservations very clear in a very good column posting. And make no mistake about it, Laporta had complexities, even as they paled in comparison to what this group has done. With the club in rather a delicate state right now and transfer banned until winter 2016 window, it is necessary … no, crucial to have a firm, steady hand guiding things.
Laporta would skate in because of the positive memories of his tenure. No, not the two silverless years when the team was a mess under late-Barça Frank Rijkaard, but the Guardiola years, before the Great Slide began. Those memories make Laporta a slam dunk, and in effect there is really only one candidate running, so we have as little choice as we had when Rosell was the 1000-pound gorilla. Would any of the others be good presidents? Good question, and as immaterial as it was when Alfons Godall and the rest were running in 2010.
A iron-clad mandate is a dangerous thing. Rosell took his whopping victory to mean unfettered control. What’s to keep Laporta from assuming the same? Nothing. What does this mean for the club? No idea, but to think that it would automatically mean victory parades and cava for everyone isn’t entirely correct.
The next Barça president will have to deal with hiring a new coach, assembling a board and taking the reins of a sporting project that has banned youth players who are stagnating, a first-team transfer ban and an actual first team with aging players, untested ones and a cranky superstar. It’s a big job, even when there isn’t an impatient bunch of supporters breathing down your neck, expecting miracles and wonderment. In reality, this could even dissuade Laporta from taking on the job, though I rather doubt it. Any culer who thinks that elections will solve the problems are as misguided as the ones who think that firing Luis Enrique will solve them.
From club membership to a shirt sponsor who many allege has ties to questionable organizations, a lot needs to be unraveled. Putting the sporting project first at a time when nothing really can be done means what, exactly? It’s important to take a clear-eyed view of what elections in summer will mean for Barça the club, and Barça the footballing side, even as the reality is that we don’t know. Would Enrique be shown the door in a show of solidarity with Messi? The latest rumor is that Messi is uncomfortable with Enrique remaining as manager of the club, and will be for as long as he is there. So then what? Don’t forget the bombshell from the Enrique presser. When asked if he felt it still true that Messi was “delighted” to be at Barça, he answered that things change over time, and the press corps should talk to the parties involved. New manager? Who? And what OF that shirt sponsorship? It’s pretty easy to get hooked on 30+m flying over the transom every season even if it isn’t coming from whatever Qatar deems worthy to offer up for the shirt front. Don’t forget about that stadium project, where the fiscal magic will enable the club to spend 700m and not incur any new debt. “Enrique out!” “Barto out!” Okay. What now?
Lots of things to do and questions to answer for an organization that is a club, but really lives and dies by the exploits of the football team. It’s crucial that culers and socis not view this presidential election as a high-profile attacker transfer, where everyone expects eleventy bajillion goals because “If he scored 35 for his old club, imagine what he will do at Barça!”
But the biggest thing is that finally, finally there is a chance to choose the person who is to run this club. Because players come and go, but it’s the club that endures. That club right now is in trouble, and needs more than anything the right hands guiding it. Those hands will be chosen by its members, for better or worse. As redemption stories go, the act of choosing is a great start.