Elections and a return to normalcy

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.

Personal side

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.

Mitigating factors

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.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

9 Comments

  1. BA
    January 7, 2015

    :reposted for posterity:

    when Bartomeu inevitably goes, all the smug nationalistic cules who voted this caravan of garbage into office in 2010 need to come out and apologize to the rest of us.

    this administration has been a resounding failure on its own terms, and has seriously both impugned the status of the club and impeded the success of arguably its brightest generation of players ever. through misstep after misstep (the treatment of Abidal, antagonizing of both Iniesta and Messi over contracts), infringement after infringement (Neymar transfer scandal, underage player signings and subsequent ban), mismanagement after mismanagement (still no center-backs, jettisoning Thiago) and the biggest lie of all: that we’re so broke as a club (no colour copies!) we need to sell the shirt, sell the stadium naming rights, and throw ourselves at the feet of Qatar and Nike to save us from financial ruin; they have shown themselves crass, incompetent, venal, and utterly incapable of running the greatest and (once) most unique football club on the planet.

    when they go many of us will feel a huge sense of relief, and hope that the club we love, though still in an unsteady position, will be handled by people who differ fundamentally in their values and influences from this current board that we can get things back on track again. i for one can’t wait to say Good Riddance.

  2. agar2515
    January 7, 2015

    Great and spot on read Kevin

  3. January 7, 2015

    Jesus! Kxevin and an non-aka post….

    As far as Laporta is concerned, I would take him over this Board. Not a big fan of him, but thinking of someone same like Rosell coming in, I would go for Laporta all the way. At least he will not overrule the football management in matters related to on field stuff. And to make matters worse, Cryuff most probably will be back as a trusted adviser – to the President and also to the Coach. Some wise words could make a lot of help in times of crisis.

    This management has been running on the Goodwill and excellent performance of our players especially Messi, Iniest, Xavi for sometime. Its those record Messi was piling up along with the team which kept them going. It has to come to an end.

    As you said we finally need someone who puts the sports project in the forefront of all thing Barca. Also we need someone to liberate us from the Qatar Al-Thani Royal family slavery.

  4. G6O
    January 7, 2015

    As long as the return of Laporta would mean a return of Cruyff as an influence over the way the club is run, the benefits outweigh the negatives IMO.

  5. January 7, 2015

    Also off the topic, we have a head-ache with the Atletico match coming in the weekend. They are slowly looking deadly compact and that’s a big worry.

  6. Tata2
    January 8, 2015

    Am not worried about Athletico cos with Enrique, everything is ‘possible’, yes he’s so very much ‘unpredictable’ that you could see an attacking trio of Rafinha Sergi Roberto and Munir on that match day. On a serious note, I just doubt our chances against Athletico, I mean if we found the buses of Getafe and Sociedad difficult to break is it athletico’s that will come easy? remember they are good on the counter and set pieces and last time I checked our weaknesses still lie in those areas. They don’t just park the bus, they get in your face, are physical and can stay very very tight and compact even in mid field (which helps our side ways passing tactics). Let’s see what LE does, I have been criticizing him heavily but right now I feel a little sympathy for him ( blame it on EE they are giving me so much joy this year)

  7. SemperFi...
    January 8, 2015

    Yeah. This feels more normal. All the success felt odd. Welcome back Barça. All ur trophy laiden seasons has driven me to Athletic Club Bilbao, & a real admirance for the indomitable Basque clubs, & their proud nature, & honor (something u once had, b4 all the constant success). U weren’t a Goodie Two Shoes club, despite the saint like “mes que un club” ‘narrative’/label, holier than thou … but at least u knew where ur priorities lied. I wear my Bilbao shirt much more these days thanks to u. Although Bilbao’s not really relevant compared to u (understatement). That sense of uniqueness comes with the shirt that once came with a Barça apparel. W/B FCBarcelona…

  8. SemperFi...
    January 8, 2015

    Never underestimate a Barcelona team with their backs against the wall.

    They’r grafters by heart. Its that fight that 1 misses. That grinding out of results against stiff competition, compact 1s like Atleti.

    A compact team throughout is the purest example of grouping together. The hallmark of togetherness. Thats the characteristics the record breaking Barça team was made up of. They recognize their former togetherness in Cholo’s group of mad men, & they know they’l have to match it regardless of wats happening internally. Bring it on Atleti… U bloodthirsty hounds.

  9. SemperFi...
    January 8, 2015

    Watching Barcelona these days is fun – nostalgia. Just like the 4 yr dominance was – because always winning was something new (to the old fans) – now not winning as much is also something new (to the newer fans).

    Besides Enrique’s inconsistent line-ups, u never know which Barcelona team is going to show up mentally wise, on match day.

    Despite all the negativity … I doubt they can b steam rolled like they were in 2012/2013 by a team like that yr’s irrepressable Bayern, or any other in that mold.

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