Messi leaving, Bartomeu resigning and other addictive noise

The next great president of FC Barcelona in this modern era will be the first.

As the club and social media followers are embroiled in the fallout related to allegations that Bartomeu contracted with a firm to burnish his image while tarnishing that of players including Messi, as well as potential presidential candidates such as Victor Font, it feels like we’ve been here before, because we have. Every president has had a scandal of some sort.

— Laporta barely survived a “no confidence” vote, was sued by socis over fund misappropriation, spied on players and board members, etc. Half the board resigned as well.
— Rosell resigned because of a tsunami of scandal, not least of which was l’affaire Neymar
— Gaspart resigned because … well … everything turned to crap on his watch
— Nunez had a flippin’ players MUTINY. Notable departures during his reign of terror included Maradona and Right Ronaldo

Anyone who thinks that Bartomeu is going to resign because of allegations such as the ones that came out this week, should reconsider. Many predicted that he would do exactly what he did, which is damage control in an effort to ride out the storm. He jettisoned the company in question, denied everything, then had a meeting with the captains, who almost certainly weren’t all that impressed with any explanation proffered, because once you know someone is a snake …

Pique famously called a board mouthpiece a “puppet,” and parts of Barca Twitter went nuts. Nothing happened after that. Then came the rumor that Messi talked about “going to play in Argentina after 2021” or some such and the Messi remoras, people latched to him and everything he does like symbiotic beings, went nuts. “This is the end for Bartomeu! Bartomeu out!” It’s as if Messi hadn’t himself raised the notion of his retirement being imminent.

Messi is 32. By the time 2021 rolls around, he will be 34. He loves the game, but does anyone honestly think that a 34-year-old Messi is going to relish getting the crap kicked out of him every week, no matter who the president of the club is? When Messi decides to leave the game, it won’t be because of some social media use allegations aimed at a crappy president. It will be because he no longer wants to play the game, probably because his ego won’t allow him to be the absolute best. Any other notion is nonsense.

Messi wants to play football and win trophies. When he called out Abidal on Instagram after a recent interview, that was Messi being a captain but also defending his own turf. If there are players who you say are doing these things, name names, or shut up. Abidal shut up, and that was that. Messi isn’t happy. But Messi hasn’t been happy from a sporting side for a while. And we know this because Messi hasn’t won all the trophies, and for a player obsessed with winning, what Messi wants most is for the people running his club to do everything possible to give him the tools he needs to win. This most recent interview is the clearest indication yet. Is he unhappy enough to leave the club? If he is, it ain’t because he thinks Bartomeu sucks. It’s because he wants to go out with another year of having won all the trophies.

As has been written in this space time and again, this isn’t a good board. Not from the human side, not from the management side, not from the sporting side. You can even question whether it’s a good board from the fiscal management side, the hook on which it hangs its hat. Want to talk about a “mutiny?” No offense to Messi or Pique, but social media statements are nothing compared to what happened during Hesperia. Check out this from Jose Alexanko, then team captain:

“President Josep Lluis Nunez has deceived us as people and humiliated us as professionals,” Alexanko read from a statement. “… the squad request the immediate resignation of the president.”

Now THAT is unequivocal. And the best thing about that mutiny? Johan Cruijff was brought on.

Modern football is run by money. Love? Sure. Of money. Clubs need money, players like to be paid money, sponsors benefit from attention paid to them, which brings them money. Players make millions. Does anyone think they are going to screw that up because they don’t like something a crappy club president is alleged to have done? Business world dictum is that employees leave managers, not a company. That manager is the man on the bench, not the man in the boardroom. And there is usually a disconnect between public and player perception of a manager. Culers believed Valverde to be the seventh sign of the Apocalypse, the worst manager in the history of managers. The players liked him, by almost all accounts. “Because he let them be lazy,” know-betters scoff, but what if it was something else? What if he equipped them with what they needed to succeed, and then stepped out of the way to let them do what they do? Valverde wasn’t the first fired manager who was liked by the players, and he won’t be the last. But the disconnect is worth considering, as well as the idea that a player would leave a club because they think the board sucks. Come on.

Players leave a club for more money, a starting place in a potentially great team, Champions League football, any number of things. They leave clubs when the sporting trend is going in the wrong direction. But in the history of transfers, how many players have left a club and said at the presser, “Well, I just don’t like how the board is running things.” Even the Barça mutineers didn’t leave. They were jettisoned.

None of this doesn’t mean that Josep Bartomeu isn’t a horrifically bad club president who is burning everything down as he chases his fool’s gold, the chance to be able to stand in front of the Assembly and boast that the club has made a billion in gross revenue. The club is a sporting and institutional mess, but yeah, check out that money. As previously written, he has failed in his most significant mission, which is to protect and represent the club in the best way, which covers everything from keeping players happy, to preventing the kinds of scandals that have plagued his tenure. He should already have resigned because of that abject and sustained failure. He threw the club under the bus to avoid legal sanction. You think a few Facebook posts faze this man? The media organization that first exposed the allegations claims to have more damning evidence. It still hasn’t come to light.

If Bartomeu resigns, it won’t be because of this. It will be, as with a player who gets a yellow for persistent infringement, because of an accumulation of managerial black eyes. And woe betide him if the club doesn’t win any silver this season, particularly after Messi said in a recent interview, echoing the new manager, that the team is insufficient. And the solution to that isn’t Martin Braithwaite. But after Luis Suarez and Ousmane Dembele were lost for the season, the club had to do something. Anything. Crisis management dictates that gestures can placate, so do something in the hopes that an action will obscure the view of mismanagement. Nope. The team is a mess of kids, coots and square pegs, and this board and its technical staff built it, through laziness and neglect. Want to scream “Bartomeu out?” Do it because of that, because the Boixos are back, because the nou Nou is a fiscal white elephant, because the club is rich, but doesn’t have any money.

Barça and its supporters love crisis. They’re addicted to it. Back when the team was winning and that was all it was doing, it felt weird. Rosell being named president, with all the crap that brought with it, was almost a relief. “Hey, dudgeon is back. Bring the noise!”

Some culers are here for the football. Others are here for everything, including the politics and the noise. Others are somewhere in the middle. But beware of overblown drama and hysteria. Bartomeu isn’t resigning over some social media kerfuffle, and Messi isn’t leaving because the club’s president is woeful. That’s reality. All the rest is noise, and should be treated as such.

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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.