Abidal is back — sideeye is justified

When a board is in trouble, or senses it, moves are made that soothe and placate. But we shouldn’t forget.

The appointment of Eric Abidal as technical secretary, replacing the involuntarily outgoing Robert Fernandez, is a brilliant move. Abidal is a club legend, a man so infused with the colors that he cleared a ball with his goddamn HEAD. He left a note in locker at Wembley, promising a return for the Champions League final with Barça, then lifted the trophy. He kicked cancer in the ass, THEN came back to help the club triumph.

Holy crap.

The people in charge are presuming that we will forget the presser featuring a weeping Abidal as the club unceremoniously kicked him to the curb. There was acrimony. Rosell sat there and thanked him for his service, and it was feel good for everyone except the player, who still felt he had some football in him, and wound up in Greece. He said that he would return to the club, and did so in an ambassador’s role. But it’s safe to say that nobody foretold this next role.

Robert didn’t do at all badly in his term as technical secretary. As a matter of fact, he did quite well. What are the requirements for a technical secretary? Well, if Monchi is the standard, they are significant. Abidal is no Monchi. In fact, we don’t know what Abidal is, exactly. He should be given an opportunity to perform before judgment is passed. But it is okay to sideeye. A great many people are, particularly as you consider whether this is a power grab by Pep Segura, who wants a yes man who will make supporters feel good while he does what he likes with transfers.

Maybe.

Or Maybe Abidal will become the Guardiola of technical secretaries, coming out of nowhere to make brilliant decisions. Or he might be a yes man, or somewhere in between. Many culers are elated about this move. But at such a crucial time in the club’s development, is this the time for an unproven technical secretary? As Sonny Corleone said in “The Godfather,” “You’re not a wartime consiglieri, Tom.”

As a reminder, this isn’t the first time that a feel-good appointment was made or mooted. In 2015, when Joan “Cava for everyone!” Laporta was running for president, it came out that he was going to appooint Carles Puyol as technical secretary, and there was much excitement, even as a few of us blasphemers wondered, as we do with Abidal, whether he was ready. This was after the club had already appointed him assistant sporting director in 2014. It was never a good fit, and not at all a surprise when he announced he was leaving the role.

Eric Abidal is a man, who can make his own decisions. We are going to have to trust that he is smart enough to not be used by this board, by Segura, in a way that conflicts with his standards and dignity. If so, he will resign, and the board will look quite, quite bad. He is, if any new technical director can be, in the catbird’s seat. And that is excelent. For a hot second, a rumor flashed that the club was considering Monchi for the Robert replacement. It would have been a brilliant move and one that demonstrated the readiness of the club to rebuild, and move to the next level. What does the Abidal appointment say, aside from speaking volumes about the capacity for human forgiveness?

For me, Abidal was the best LB Barça has ever had, and one of the best in the history of the game. The back line hasn’t been the same since he left. But we don’t know what kind of a technical secretary he is going to be, at a time when the club has very real needs, with its aging/aged core. The club will also have to, like it or not, prepare for that time after Messi. It is time to start thinking about that now, rather than in typical, “Holy crap, this is happening now?” mode. Nothing against Abidal, and nothing against the board. But when something is too perfect, you shouldn’t trust it.

Pique is old.
Busquets is old
Rakitic is old
Messi’s role is about to change
There are significant midfield needs
Jordi Alba is right on the edge
Luis Suarez needs to be considered

There is a lot to do. Would an experienced, tenured technical secretary such as Monchi have made us all feel better? Absolutely. Would Robert remaining in the role have been perfectly fine? Yes, the transfers of Gomes and Alcacer notwithstanding, but those were coach’s decisions and a technical staff is ultimately at the coach’s bidding.

There is also a lot going on behind the scenes at the club, from Segura to a board wanting a feel-good move. Abidal is perfect, especially in the wake of Iniesta’s departure and people wondering about that, as he is playing for a club in Japan, still playing internationally for Spain and might continue playing internationally for Spain. We have to believe that he left on his own terms, because the club owed him that. But there are questions.

We love nostalgia, and we love reunions. When an iconic player returns to a club in a key management capacity, what’s not to like? And we should like it. But we shouldn’t trust it entirely, and we should ask very specific questions about the qualifications of the person named. The Barça technical secretary is going to be busy this summer. Abidal rolled into the LB slot, struggled for a bit, then become a lion. Let’s see what he has as technical secretary.

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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.

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