Personally, I’d recommend one of these lovely t-shirts, that are available here. T’would be just the thing, given his affinity for luring young’uns from our warm, welcoming bosom, right?
Not so fast there, sparky.
The last time that I saw dudgeon flowing so fast and heavy, was oh, the last couple of summers, when the Cesc Fabregas transfer mill was in full flight, and Arsenal fans were acting as if we had stomped into their living rooms and were looking to pillage and plunder, rather than offering a young millionaire the chance to become even more of a young millionaire, enriching his employer in the process.
Words such as “classless” and “principle” were being bandied about, as if one club or the other had some divine right to the player. Irrespective of what side you take, the whole thing is, was and will always be stupid. I find player transfers and the whole business loathsome, as loathsome as fans who presume some sort of bond with a businessman/athlete. “Arsenal DNA,” “our captain,” blah, blah, blah. It’s all preternaturally silly, because here’s the thing:
Fabregas wanted to go to Arsenal, something we should never forget. He wanted the move, and Daddy-O wanted the move. Why? Because they knew that he didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of playing for us as a regular before, oh, 2 or 3 years from now. And he wanted to be a star sooner than that, so he took the deal that was being offered by Farmer Wenger. It worked out very well for him, right? And what’s wrong with that?
Now we have “the new Fabregas,” one Jon Miquel Toral Harper, who sounds a bit like a supermodel, or multi-monikered black actor from the ’80s. Instead, he’s 16-year-old midfielder of some talent, who has become something of a symbol now that Farmer Wenger stole up like a thief in the night and yanked him away.
And lordy, are we vexed. “Immoral” is one of my favorite words flying around, which is awesome. But here’s the thing: Harper did the same math that Fabregas did, and came to the same decision. His path to someone’s first team, millions of dollars, dates with superstar singers and whatnot, would be a lot quicker in England, a place where the player and his parents have decided best suits his style anyhow. So what?
Wenger also tried for Sergi Samper, but because Samper actually has a better shot at playing for us than Harper, the answer was no. I can only imagine how insufferable the blather would have been had he nabbed Samper, as well. Yes, insufferable, because here’s another thing:
In the U.S., top high-school prospects in big sports, are a big deal. Colleges court them, and their signing decisions are immense because the right player can change the fortune of a program, just as it can for a football club. What if Messi had decided to stay home? More importantly for the player, the right program can pave the way for his path to professional athletics, which is the point of all this stuff. The very same thing is true of our young players.
“Wenger should raise his own talent,” snuffles the Outraged Cule. Why? We’re doing a great job at it, and if our youth players are susceptible to his blandishments, then we need to look in the mirror, or more correctly, at the depth charts, in the same way that the player and his family is doing. Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Thiago, Dos Santos, Rafa, Afellay, Samper are just some of the names that math whizzes in the Harper household did some calculations on, and decided they’d rather take a shot at their kid becoming the next Fabregas, rather than the next Assulin. Nothing wrong with that.
Is the cule outrage because of Wenger’s action, or because maybe, just maybe, we’re just another club in that rather than a genteel little nursery that churns out little Xaviniestas, La Masia (soon to be all fancy and state-of-the-art) is a cutthroat place, where kids scrabble and clamber over each other’s shoulders to become the next star whose name is ringing through the Camp Nou, being shouted by 90,000 of the faithful. Good question, right?
Just like a high school basketball player has the right to choose whatever program will make him the best and enhance his chances, why should a youth footballer be any different, whether we raised him or not?
–We volunteered to pay Messi’s medical and living expenses, because we suspected he would be amazing.
–Our players came through La Masia, a place that, last time I checked, doesn’t have a stud farm and nursery, where future players are born and raised. We lure them with the promise of a bright, shining future. Just as Farmer Wenger did.
So we should just shut up about it, because just like La Masia will go from a squat stone building in the shadow of the Camp Nou to a glitzy facility, Modern Times are beckoning for our club. The signs aren’t just in the youth program, that we are fast moving from More Than A Club to Just Another Modern Club. As only the cave-dwellers need updating on, we sold the front of our shirt to a corporate sponsor. Gussy it up in all of the self-serving, feel-good bollocks that you want, but to me, Qatar Foundation is no different than Betfair, or Emirates, because we are being paid to carry the logo of an entity.
Welcome to modern times, right? Also this week, a 5m offer from our shirt sponsor for the stadium naming rights was rejected. Why? Draw your own conclusions, but my guess would be because it was too low. Don’t forget that RoSELL was putting stadium naming rights on the table, a rumor that has become reality. And why not, right? As long as we have already sold the shirt, why not go full-on modern? Arsenal got a hell of a deal for Emirates Stadium, at some 100m pounds, plus extra for the shirt. Ya-HOO! Wouldn’t that go a dang sight toward erasing some of that astronomical debt that the dastardly Joan Laporta has left us in. Boy, howdy.
Please pardon the base analogy, but you don’t lose some of your virginity. Was the UNICEF deal a preparation that got people used to the idea of a sponsor on the shirt front? Laporta said no, not on his watch. RoSELL didn’t say anything except “How much?” Who’s right and who’s wrong in these days of leveraging the hell out of a valuable commodity? Just as a player has to make all the money that he can while the sun shines, shouldn’t a club, also? (Man, am I full of questions!)
Our very own Tom Johnson suggests that the time is now for our club to ease its way into the modern world, with things such as luxury skyboxes and increased attention paid to marketing. And he makes very sound points.
RoSELL, of course, is a whiz at marketing. Has he become president of our sleepy little backwater of a club at precisely the right time? After all, everybody wants a piece of us. All the pundits say that next year, we will indeed be the top-earning club in the world, a status buttressed by our stunning success on the global football stage. And only a fool wouldn’t capitalize on that status, right? Another good question, and here’s still another one: Has Arsenal shown us the way? Highbury was an iconic footballing ground. When it was dumped for the fancy, pre-sold Emirates Stadium, garments were rent and hair yanked out at the roots, just as happened when we sold the shirt. But ask yourself what the move from Highbury to Emirates did for and to the club. Hmmmm ….
What I know is this: Irrespective of what happens to naming rights, the front of shirt, youth players or luxury boxes, Barca will still, for me, be mes que un club.
What that phrase represents, completely outside of the self-righteous, bastardized meanings that epithet-hurlers have attached to it, is the club’s deep roots in the life, culture and history of the Catalan people. You can sell the naming rights to the Camp Nou, you can sell the shirt, but can you really sell the soul of a club and a place, a soul paid for in blood? For years, the Camp Nou was the only place that anyone could be Catalan — to speak the language, embrace the culture, cheer until hoarse for the region’s brightest, most glittering symbol.
Soul is in the heart, in the beliefs, in the value system of the club and its cules. You can sell the body to whomever you like, and I leave the debate as to whether the time is indeed right to sell out to you all. But I say that just like a blues player who might be on a major label but still has the blues in his soul, Barca will be, forever and always, mes que un club, no matter what RoSELL or anybody else does, buys or sells.
This picture symbolizes a lot of what the modern era represents for our club. It’s Puyol and Xavi, clad in the shirts of the Spanish national team, carrying a World Cup trophy that they won while playing for Spain, as they are holding a Senyera, the flag of Catalunya, a region that (dependent upon who you ask) would luuuuve to have its full independence from the aforementioned Spain.
Modern Times, a place full of tempests and compromises, are indeed beckoning for our club. And no matter what or how it happens, love remains the same.