Bartomeu and Laporta, more alike than anyone cares to admit

And then there were two …

Now that Joan Laporta has declared for the elections and we know that Bartomeu is already in, the two 1,000-pound gorillas are set to square off. Yes there are other candidates and the most interesting platform is that of Origen FCB, but reality is that there are only two candidates who have a viable shot at this thing, barring any compromising photos or new court proceedings.

What is absolutely fascinating is that there is, in reality and dependent upon the lens you use to have a gander, very little to choose from between them.

Laporta can say, “Do you want more of this?” and show a photo of himself with treble trophies.
Bartomeu can say, “Do you want more this?” and show a photo of himself with treble trophies.

Both presided over first-year coaches who had an historic season. Both assumed office under complex circumstances, both had prominent board members resign during their tenure.

The challenging thing is, of course, to look at both of them with fresh eyes unburdened by views of the past, and base a choice from that even as the complexity is that the most comforting choice is (as usual with elections) a candidate who doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. I am very interested in hearing a lot more from Agusti Benedito. Jordi Farre also has excellent things to say and Victor Font is strong. But it’s still Laporta and Bartomeu.

The biggest task facing Bartomeu is to present himself as a “new” candidate rather than a continuation of Rosell. Even Freixa (who is running himself) and Faus won’t be part of Bartomeu’s board should he win the election. A rather astute person on Twitter asked what bad things Bartomeu has done since he has been president. If you think about it, the answer is pretty much … nothing. Every negative thing related to his candidacy occurred during the Rosell administration.

— Crap Masia management.
— Neymar contract
— Transfer ban
— Shirt (and unofficial stadium naming) sale

You name it, and it happened while he was vice president. During his tenure as president, there are things that a cule can rightly raise eyebrows at, which is different from being bad, per se:

— Throwing Zubizarreta under the bus.
— Not immediately stepping down and calling for elections right after Rosell resigned
— Using incumbent power to begin his campaign with a series of key renewals
— If you know stuff is shady, why take part?

Club bylaws dictated that Bartomeu assume office after Rosell stepped down, and it’s worth noting that Laporta, after Rosell and other key board members resigned, didn’t step down and call elections either. Again, similarities.

Bartomeu decided to weather any storm and keep Enrique as coach, if rumors about jobs being in danger had any truth to them. Yes, there is a veritable conga line of legal proceedings facing the club, and it’s unfortunate that the president who was presiding at the time is off somewhere, counting his money and leaving Bartomeu as the face of the club and ostensibly, the face of corruption and mismanagement of key areas of FC Barcelona.

The real question is what did Bartomeu do? It’s like the person in the front car of a roller coaster taking credit for the ride’s success, particularly if it’s true that Enrique’s job was never in danger. Simple reality is that he was club president while the team got its crap together and won everything. As realtors say, “Location, location, location.”

But in many ways, that unknown quality is what is perturbing about the Bartomeu candidacy precisely beCAUSE of those links to the past. He is part of the group that has the club with a permanent seat in courtrooms. Masia, a potential renewal with Qatar, a nation with a complex history as regards public perception and its World Cup bid, the transfer ban, etc. So his challenge remains how to paint that as the fault of his predecessors rather than his own, and to lay out a cogent, palatable plan for governance that involves more than “Hey! More trophies! That other stuff was the other guy”

But this is also true of Laporta, who is essentially running on the nostalgia ticket. The predominant questions surrounding his candidacy on the lips of many culers seems to be “When are Cruijff and Guardiola coming back?” And Laporta wants it that way. His presidency during a period of astonishing sporting success obscures things such as his Great Uzbek Adventure, a mess involving fees received for friendlies that landed him in court; spying on folks; cooking the books in a favorable way (just as Rosell did — truth is somewhere in the middle) and using the club for personal political gain.

Both candidates even had to deal with censure motions started by a soci, Oriol Giralt in Laporta’s case and Jordi Cases in the came of Bartomeu, though that was aimed more at Rosell and the Neymar proceedings. Only Laporta’s got to a vote, where 60% of the voting socis wanted him out. He stuck out his chin, chose not to step down because well, the real number required is … Of course as we remember in the Rosell matter, the percentage of socis required to force a censure motion went from 5 to 15%, effectively scuttling the Rosell move before it even began. It’s like the front-runners are the same.

Laporta, therefore, isn’t all magic dust and trophies. But because memories of Coldplay songs, a weeping Guardiola and all-conquering sprites are still fresh in culer memories, Laporta has a head start before he even does anything. There is talk of Puyol and Abidal being attached to his candidacy in some way, ploys that to my view are rather shameless trucking in the past and using that as a reminder and implication that there is more to come.

Both candidates will have to present a clear, coherent plan of governance that discusses the club’s future rather than some “chicken in every pot” pablum that will say things like, “Masia must be strong, the club must play the Barça way, blablabla.”

Also crucial is the board that each of the front-runners proposes. Laporta was able to work so much magic at the beginning of his reign because his board was exceptionally good, including the likes of Rosell and Ferran Soriano. They could handle the financial and marketing side while Laporta dealt with the human and political side. That team set the wheels in motion to build a powerful, global Barça that in many ways spawned the colossus we see today. That management in effect made sure the parties were paid for properly. When that (then) cadre of young whizzes left on horses named Dudgeon, Laporta’s presidency went off the rails for many observers, a reality that leads to justifiable qualms about him in the coming elections.

Bartomeu on the other hand is the triumph of the marketing guys, and we have seen what hanging out a “for sale” sign can do to a club in the name of marketing. Do we want that in the president’s chair for six years? There is also the stadium matter. Without question, Barca needs a Camp Nou that is capable of standing, revenue-wise, with the demands of the modern game, from luxury boxes to ancillary entertainments. The previous board has a proposal on the table, nebulous though it is. We know roughly how much it will cost and kinda how it will look. But that project has the potential to saddle the club with a metric crap ton of debt, or if it works out as the previous board suggests, will leave the club with a glittering showcase that will pay for itself in a few years.

Promises, promises.

If Laporta is smart he will say as little as possible, and let memories run his campaign for him. But Bartomeu will have a bit of work to do not to convince the more conservative socis who weren’t all that fond of Laporta in the first place, but socis who are on the fence and remember the good times of the past, vs the more recent good times.

This is a race that boils down to the lesser of two evils, as do most elections. The two front-runners are vying to assume stewardship of a club that has to decide whether it wants to be a global player with Catalan roots, or a Catalan institution peering out through drawn shutters. Whoever wins is going to have to make some difficult decisions about the future of the club and the team. Soci numbers are down dramatically since Rosell took office, from a high of almost 118k to around 106k. That is significant, even if the income from those soci fees is but a drop in the bucket to a club that projects 600m in revenues for next season, because it means people are, for whatever reason, choosing to leave. This broad, global view is part of the perception that both candidates will have to successfully manage.

Someone asked via Twitter regarding qualms about Laporta, didn’t I want to see more bright, shining talents coming out of La Masia. This was a fascinating comment because it implied that Laporta was somehow responsible for the Masia glories that pepper the first team. But again, it’s the guy in the front car of the roller coaster getting credit for the successful ride.

La Masia is complex. It’s a collection of youth talent that is being groomed for a futures as FC Barcelona players. Of the hundreds of kids that will come through the academy, precious few of them will make it to the professional ranks, period. The number of them who will ascend to the ranks of players good enough to perform for the first team of FC Barcelona, currently the best team in the world, are miniscule in context. There were errors made in the management of La Masia, and the wrong coach was chosen to lead Barça B, an bungle compounded by the succession of Jordi Vinyals.

The most important thing about La Masia is grooming its talents to play the Barça way. Position in the table doesn’t matter all that much. Coming up from a Segunda B side didn’t hamper Busquets’ development in any way. Talent is talent. But you can’t have Barca B playing in a way that is “wrong” in the first team context. The first team will adapt its tactics, but the roots of those tactics are a way of playing learned at the academy. But a great many people are only paying as much attention as they are to the B team because of the Masia talents that have sparkled in the first team of late. Those talents have also inflated perceptions of the success rate of La Masia. There are more Jonathan Sorianos and Gai Assulins that come out of La Masia than Andres Iniestas and Xavis, more Muniesas and Fontases than Puyols and Piques. It’s important not to mistake La Masia for what it is, which is a talent crap shoot stocked with kids.

As far as each candidate goes, the past is the past. Thinking of Cruijff and Guardiola as you sigh wistfully at those Laporta for President posters is no more valid than grimacing as you think of Rosell, transfer bans and lawyer fees when you think of Bartomeu. What is at issue here is what each president will bring to the club and who will be on his board. There is talk that Laporta will ally himself with Puyol in some way. Hats off to him for respecting a legend, but in what way? The initial talk was as sporting director, and that gave me pause. Can a guy who served under ZubiZa for about 14 seconds really serve as sporting director for Barca? Should he? More recent rumors are not sporting director, but that Puyol will in some way be involved in the campaign. Be wary, and question everything.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. Timely article. It is like you said just going to be the 2 of them. I’m torn between the 2. If I was a soci like you, I’d really have a tough time to figure out whom to choose. Once I figure out their pro’s and cons, the balance is 60-40 in Laporta’s favor because he seems to be more on the ground type of leader that is in touch with the people. He seems more like one of us, a fan instead of a business man.

    Anyways, thank you for this piece and all the others that you churned out, like Messi, you sometimes single handedlu carried the blog. Goodbye. I hope like handful of times in the past, it’s just a temporary leave.

    Happy fasting month to those that are practicing this month. It’s gonna be a long ride for those of you in the Western Hemisphere. Just for this 1 month of the year I’m glad to be back on the east.

  2. Great reflections, thanks. I do not claim to have any detailed knowledge on the political side of things, but a quick note anyway. You know the old saying, you know what you’ve got, but not what you’ll get? Interestingly enough, I feel Laporta manages to radiate a sense of representing “what you’ve got”, security, the good ol’ stuff – while Bartomeu still comes off as the “new guy” who no one knows. Both are corrupt and self-centred: but who will hurt the sporting side less? Asks the cynic…

  3. The 600m in income has to be in a weird way a cause for concern, especially given the context of Qatar, Nike, and everything else.

    This club has/had been the brightest example of how one can succeed by doing the right thing in terms of organization and player development and by playing the right way, while being at a relative disadvantage financially and politically for quite some time.

    However, let’s say we keep winning trophies like we have for the last 10 years for another decade or two. It may take actually even less than that. We might overtake RM as the most successful on paper, the most popular, and also the richest club in the world.

    We want the first of these things to happen, but not necessarily the other two. Because if they happen, there is a real danger that we will turn into what RM is now, using our financial muscle to crush the competition. We’re already doing that, as we do have the money to buy expensive players now, and the players want to play for us anyway, which gives us an additional advantage. That’s how we won the treble this season.

    And then what has defined this club has a philosophy and a right way of doing things can easily erode, and we will take the place of the EE.

    1. Excellent comment! The problem with Barca these days is that we will always have a legitimate excuse to try to get bigger and earn more money since we are directly competing with RM and their marketing/galactico policy. Added to this is the fact that it is a political as well as a sporting competition and its not surprising that things have evolved in this way.

      All that being said, I’m not sure what the best course for the future should be. I think we definitely need to take advantage of lucrative commercial sponsors but also must find a different backer than Qatar.

    2. It’s a no-wing situation. We have to keep competing because if we don’t, we’ll be left behind.

      But if there is some way to keep the current state of affairs, in which they have more money and keeping splashing huge sums on flashy signings, while we have 50-100m less per seasons than them and correspondingly don’t do as much of that, yet win more trophies, that would be perfect.

      But once we have more money and use that accordingly…

    3. This is why they say “it’s an imperfect universe”.

      Even so, I’m not precisely worried about money corrupting Barça any more than the current state. The more money there is, the easier the club will pay off the renovations, the easier it will be for the non-football sections to retain players and compete.

      “Money on the pitch” doesn’t mean splashing huge transfer fees. On the contrary, it means having well-paid and happy players, having first-class infrastructure and stadium that allows those players to perform to the best of their abilities. Huge transfers are by definition money spent off the pitch.

  4. Kevin, I am very, very sorry for this temporal hi-jack. I will comment as soon as possible on the post, which is covering almost everything I´d wanted to discuss. But first.

    The Spanish Special Supreme Court has accepted DIS’s demand against Barcelona, Neymar, his father, Rosell and Bartomeu, and the directors of Santos. DIS’s claim is that they are due 40% of the total sum of transfer, which they claim to be more than 100 m Euro. That demand was first made in Brazilian Court, where it was rejected. DIS had claim on 40% of the future transfer fee of Neymar, and Santos transferred Neymar for 17.1 million Euro. Santos was the only entity that had the right to negotiate about Neymar’s fee. So far so good.

    Now make sure you grasp the following:

    The ENTIRE CASE that the Supreme Court handled in Madrid and ultimately sent to Barcelona court rests on the basis/assumption that the 40 million Euro paid to N&N is salary for the player as a player for FC Barcelona and as such there is a financial crime, since taxes should’ve been paid in Spain and not in Brazil, as they were. THAT is the whole reason for the charade we have witnessed so far.

    Now that same court accepts DIS’s demand that the firm must receive 40% of everything. This is a direct contradiction to the entire basis for the current trial, because in it the prosecution considers only the 17.1 million to be transfer fee! DIS has no claim on any salary given to the player by his new club. None.

    Are you still laughing at the conspiracy theories?

  5. @ Ciaran from the other post

    I see your point, I suppose it’s just that I and many simply want to cleanse the club completely from the Rosell regime. That and I believe Laporta really respects club values and traditions and has, in his time away observing, grown so as to not repeat his past mistakes.

  6. Question for Kxevin Peter or anyone who knows:To be a candidate u need to guarantee 80m euros.So are Laporta and Bartomeu so rich??I doubt it.So behind them there are people with power and money??Companies??Perez is one of the richest man in Spain and our candidates is a lawyer and bartomeu(dont know his job).Barca is a huge club and i believe there is a war of power people behind those elections.Whoever wins i am sure he has some deals for the future with the people behind the scenes.Am i crazy to believe that?

    1. They personally aren’t that rich. That’s why they need a board of directors to share the load. Sometimes this leads to people being included more because of their deep pockets than due to actual ability to govern. Bartomeu is the CEO and partner in two firms, first is ADELTE, engineering and infrastructure, second is a group of maintenance and mechanical companies, so supposedly he’s rich. Laporta is a lawyer and politician.

      Carles Villarubi, one of the current directors, is a partner in GODO group, which owns Mundo Deportivo, among other entities.

  7. Also today there was war in Twitter for a young player who will leave the club.People say that La Masia dont work.I agree that we need change.But Xavi Iniesta Messi Pique Puyol are not Laporta s.All of them were in our club before 2003.In Laporta era i dont believe we had so much better La Masia.And someone said about our Basketball team.Yes but there is also the Handball team who won 7 titles this year!!My point is u must have the right reasont to attack Bartomeu.Corruption,Membership rules e.t.c.Because in trophies numbers they were a good board.

  8. And i am soru a last comment:If we buy Gerson it s not a bad move.We must look for talents and that s not against La Masia players.And i dont like fans who say that they love La Masia and cry for a 16y old player who left the club and the same time they dislike Sergi Roberto.Sergi deserves to be in the team.Thats all from me,soru for the number of comments:-)

  9. “Laporta can say, “Do you want more of this?” and show a photo of himself with treble trophies.
    Bartomeu can say, “Do you want more this?” and show a photo of himself with treble trophies.”

    Let’s hope voters care more about the future than the past. Because it’s the future that’s at stake at elections. Not the past. My problem with Bartomeu waving “his” treble infront of voters noses is that his treble has actually more to do with what Laporta (and Cruyff and Rosell and Soriano and Ingla…) did before Bartomeu became president. What Rosell and Bartomeu did in the last years actually put our sporting success at risk. We won that treble despite our board, not because of them.

    “Club bylaws dictated that Bartomeu assume office after Rosell stepped down, and it’s worth noting that Laporta, after Rosell and other key board members resigned, didn’t step down and call elections either. Again, similarities.”

    True, Bartomeu had every right to take over after Rosell, but you can’t compare it with Laporta’s situation in 2005 or 2008. There’s a huge difference. Rosell was president when he resigned last year. Laporta, as president, had other board members resigning. Apples and Oranges.

    To me what it comes down to in this election is values. That’s why I love this club. That’s what makes it different to all others. And Bartomeu (as part of Rosell’s board) has been dragging these values through the mud. A vote for Bartomeu is a vote for Qatar. That’s unacceptable to me. A vote for Laporta is not necessarily the best option (considering the very promising programs of other candidates), but it’s a vote for our values. It’s a vote against Qatar and a vote against Espai Barça.

    1. Yeah, Laporta was so loved, that in 2008 there was an actual vote of no confidence against him (happened three times in the entire history of Barça if I’m not mistaken). The culerada voted 60.6% against him. Laporta remained in his seat because according to club statutes he’d be obliged to step down if more than 66.6% have voted against him.

      And interesting note is that years before, when there was going to be a vote of no confidence against Nuñez, Laporta was telling every microphone that if the president loses the vote by a simple majority(50%+1 vote), he must step down, because he has lost the faith of the socis.

      How things change, depending on the perspective, eh?

  10. Kx to stop writing in here ?
    I knew this year was going too well.
    Something had to go terribly wrong.
    Waaahahaah !
    Although, it’s nice favourite posters once again.
    Hello Peter, ciaran to mention a few.
    Have a good summer, y’all.

  11. Nice effort to diplomatically (ostensibly) raise Bartomeu to Laportas level. Laporta has to win this election for the sake of the club. There is no other viable option. Bartomeu is just as much of a crook as Rosell. Laporta as principles and ideology.

    1. There are options.Benedito is one of them.Socis must see the future of the club and not the past that Bartomeu and Laporta are.

  12. This blog comes across as a rather liberal and progressive interest organization for a “modern” Barcelona, trying to undermine the clubs moral integrity and historical values. And I’m sorry if I got the wrong impression.

  13. I hope whoever wins the election,after he have a meeting with Victor Font and listen to him.

  14. Looking Forward To See You Back Here AgaI kxevin.I’m gonna miss you like air good luck on your endeavors

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