So, it is official: Arda Turan will make blaugrana mattresses from now on. Javier Faus negotiated a deal of 34 million euros plus 7 million in variables to meet the 41M release clause of the 28-year old midfielder. Curiously, the transfer includes a buy-back clause that would allow the club to sell the player back to Atletico Madrid for 90% of the purchase price, which is valid until July 20 and would give the newly elected president exactly 48 hours to make a final decision.
Of the four presidential candidates, only the outgoing president was in favor of signing the Turk. In my previous piece about Arda Turan, I dealt with the technical and strategical merits of this transfer as well as the ethical dilemma of whether or not an interim board can make a € 40M deal for a player. Of this I would like to revisit the ethical aspect and look at the transfer from an electoral point of view. As expected, only one candidate supported the interim board’s signing, namely the one who stood to gain from the transfer, Josep Bartomeu. I quote:
Equally expected, the other candidates were less than thrilled:
Did the Management Commission abuse their mandate? To examine this, it is worth repeating article 35.4 of the club’s statutes:
The Management Commission will exercise the functions of governance, administration and representation as bestowed upon the Board of Directors, but will be limited to necessary and essential actions for the maintenance of the Club’s normal activities and the protection of its interests.
The main role of the Management Commission will be to call elections to constitute a new Board of Directors, which it must do within a period of three months of the day that its members took office. In that case, the voting may not be performed between 15 and 30 June.*
The responsibilities of the interim board are thus summed up in three sentences. Many voices assert that the club’s normal activities constitute paying for the utility bills and not much else. The fact that its main role is to call for elections supports that opinion. However, the statutes are sufficiently vague. After all, normal activities and protections of its interests leave more than a bit of wiggle room for interpretation.
My view is both as simple as it is contradictory. Negotiating transfers are part of the club’s normal activities in July. Especially in a case where negotiations have started before the Management Committee was put in place, the interests of the club are for those negotiations to continue. If the club is then in danger of losing out on its target due to external factors such as the selling club wanting to negotiate with other buyers, it would be in the club’s interests to sign the player. Nevertheless, although not explicitely mentioned, the spirit at least of article 35.4 would seem to exclude signing players.
The problem with the arguments put forth by candidates, whether they come from the one who supports the deal or from those who oppose it, is that by definition presidential candidates are not trustworthy. It is reasonable to assume that Luis Enrique asked for the player and that he pressured for the deal to be completed as soon as possible. Since the Asturian has a reputation of being honest, those statements are too risky to be lies. It has also been claimed that the negotiations were initiated more than two months ago. If true, its conclusion is logical. Why negotiate for months only to risk losing the target due to the elections? The statement also paints the Managing Committee as acting upon a process that had been ongoing for some time. Alas, we might never know when the contact with club and player was initiated.
The criticism is also political. Freixa and Laporta aren’t upset that Turan is signed, they’re upset that Bartomeu will get credit for the signing. Indeed, if the deal were to have fallen through during the next twelve days, they would start their presidency with having to explain to their strong-willed and treble-winning coach that he could not get the player he asked for because they did not like being outmaneuvered during the elections. As for Benedito’s preference for a different player (Verratti), his agent has since outright dismissed the possibility of the young Italian midfielder leaving Paris Saint-Germain.
Does Arda Turan give the outgoing president an unfair advantage to be re-elected for a second term? Hell yes, and the buy-back clause inserted into the contract adds even further insult to injury in this regard. Now Bartomeu can claim he got the player while at the same time safeguarding the legitimacy of the deal by giving the new president the option of returning the package to the Calderón – as if that were an option once the player is under Luis Enrique’s orders. But this is not the only bird Bartomeu killed with the proverbial stone. With the squad complete and a transfer ban in place, no candidate can use the true-or-false promise of a big name signing to sway voters. Most of Laporta’s followers are familiar with the story of how his camp swung the 2003 elections in his favor by promising he would sign David Beckham from Manchester United. He knew only too well that Real M*drid already had a deal in place with the superstar- it was thanks to his running buddy Sandro Rosell’s good relationship with M*drid president Florentino Perez that our rivals kept their deal quiet as not to torpedoe Laporta’s campaign strategy.
Will those readers who giggled when they first heard the Beckham story raise their left hand? And could those who are upset about the Management Committee’s signing of Arda Turan raise their right hand? How many of you have two hands in the air right now? Politics is, after all, a dirty game and Barcelona has seen it all, from false promises regarding signings to false rumors spread about a front runner’s sexuality. In comparison, the actual signing of a player who arrives by the express wishes of a treble-winning coach is not so bad…
If only Bartomeu were that smart when it came to circumventing FIFA bans and managing shirt sponsors, the choice for presidency might be a whole lot easier.
* If you read the last piece, you’ll notice a difference in wording (though not meaning) of the statutes. This is because while I first translated the statutes myself, I later found them in English. The version in this article is the official one.