Barça, elections and unrequited love

Football doesn’t care about you.

Football doesn’t love you.

Football, if it were a spouse or mate who treated you as football does, would have you in therapy, or bleating to a friend over drinks.

Barça is having elections right now and as with everything related to the club, it is a purity contest. Shimmering glimpses of a former past, or you are a Nünista. The name calling begins. Support another, and you don’t care about the future. Support yet another, and you’re something even worse than a Nuñista, a Bartomeu continuist.

The candidates sit back and watch, having presented precious little that lets people make clear, fully informed decisions, so all anyone really has to go on is feeling. And feeling is everything in a relationship, particularly an unrequited one.

If all three candidates were to present detailed proposals instead of things calculated to arouse feelings, there probably wouldn’t be much to separate them. A situation such as the one that Barça finds itself in presents a finite set of options in steering the club out. Promising transfers is easy. Raising revenue from empty stands, paring down a payroll that is the biggest in football, while continuing to compete for trophies just doesn’t leave many options. It’s selling stuff. Sponsorships, naming rights, players on big wages. Everyone knows what’s keft to be mortgaged, who is making big miney and not performing at a level commensurate.

There has been lots of talk about soul, and purity, and all of that emotional hooey that marketing folks love to see, and politicians adore. But Barça doesn’t have a soul. There is no purity attached. There is a business. Even in the glory days, where Coldplay songs blared, and we watched the same “Gladiator”-based clip that allegedly inspired the players and puffed out our chests, it was all illusion and we loved it. Ate it up.

The players we argue over and many revere are professionals. One-club players are o e-club players because another club hasn’t made a move sufficiently tempting. Ain’t no love in business, no loyalty among mercenaries. Dani Alves recently talked about how Barça has lost its soul. Pfft. Marketing blather. What felt like a soul, like magic and spirit, is just good feelings sparked by homegrown, once-in-a-lifetime players at the top of their form, doimg what they do.

One of the most detestable things about the Bartomeu regime, in all the mismanagement and foolish decisions, is that they stripped away the artifice. It was money. As much as possible so they could keep shoveling it into the maw of a football club that needs to stay at the highest level, to satisfy the most demanding suporters in football. Trebles are addictive.

Marketing love is hard, but when you get it right, it works. Mes que un club lets you wrap a club in shimmering white samite, lets supporters talk of playing the right way, of championing wee midfielders as symbols of the excellemce of a system. And the marketing people smile as they watch social media and the purity wars.

We see big pronouncements on the future of the club being at stake, and moves that must be made. Nah. Barça isn’t going anywhere. But crisis marketing is every bit as valuable as selling notions of love and,purity. Football is a golddigger. How much money is there, how much can you give me?

We love football clubs because of feelings, things that they give us. Sometimes we feel trapped in those relationships, but what is a way out? Like penguins, we mate for life. But clarity matters. Money. Gotta pay Messi, Fati, Alba, Dembele, Griezmann, all the rest of them. No pay, no love. Ask a deeply loyal player to take a pay cut, slash his salary to help the club, and see what kind of love and loyalty you get.

Neymar was a moneygrubbing weasel. Duh. He’s pure in that way. I’m angrier at the club that seemed surprised that the cat would be swayed by another shiny thing, and had no contingency plan other than the kinds of idiotic, vision quest transfers they are so good at. Ego. “Said no, huh? We will keep trying, instead of reconsidering. Because ego.”

Relationships at the smaller club level are purer, closer to the illusory love that big clubs need to sell. Lack of options for players at that level facilitate purity. How many star-level players stay at small clubs, though. Why would they? Love is love, but money is money and football runs on money. Liga, Premiership, UEFA, FIFA, it’s money. And the business that heps bring money.

Why are they playing football amid a pandemic, bevore empty stands that speak with a clarity that is impossible to argue with? Money. Sponsors, endorsements, the churn has to continue. Can’t take TV money when the product isn’t running around. And we talk about how it feels weird, feels empty, but there we are, because what ekse are we going to do. We’re junkies, hooked on a game. And here we sit.

I watch people have their president wars, and smile. The difficulties of the club are such that there really isn’t time for feelings. Any of the candidates who wins will of necessity have to be a cold-hearted businessman. I dislike Toni Freixa. It’s the brimstone smell that puts me off. Feeling. Font or Laporta? I just don’t care that much because at the end of it all, they will both have to sell lots of stuff. Players? Transfers? With what money? Promotions and future stars make themselves clear, whoever the president is. Managers, technical directors live in the reality of money. Teams know what is needed, unless marketing folks step in. Then come compromises. And transfers that vex us. Part of the game.

Whether the elections happen in February or March, the club will have a new president. Some will be happy, thinking the right choice was made. Others will say the voters have chosen to fling the club into the abyss. Money won’t care. And a game that needs money will just say, “Where’s mine,” and look at us, look at sponsors. And as always, we will all fork over. Because love ain’t easy, or cheap.

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.