Silence isn’t always golden

At the end of it all lay Barça and Real Madrid, united by much more than being eternal rivals and bitter enemies. The two clubs are also joined at the hip by greed, obstinacy and callousness.

As the SuperLeague is all but dead even as Florentino Perez insists it will return, like a cinematic villain the audience thought the hero had killed. it’s difficult to see how such a thing is possible. What’s clearer to see however is how much alike the two big clubs are. Mind, an honest assessment by supporters of Barça and Real Madrid was always destined to be a pretty uncomfortable mirror check. But now? Ugh.

Yet as we ooze into another “death by a thousand cuts” day in the life of a dead SuperLeague, someone has to say it:

Had disgraced former president Josep Bartomeu done on the radio what current president Joan Laporta did, there would be cries of “Off with his head!” attended by hashtags campaigns of various forms, all ending in “out.”

Had the club released a statement as chockablock with arrogance and hubris as the one released by the club if Bartomeu was president? “Off with his head!” attended by hashtag campaigns of various forms, all ending in “out.”

New presidents get a grace period, but this complexity came hard and fast at Laporta and at first he handled it the right way, even if it wasn’t the most satisfying way: with silence. As the news broke and Barça was one of the “wantaway 12,” there was silence from Catalunya. Florentino Perez went on TV and acted like a shill for unfettered greed and more money to buttress poor decisions, and still silence from Catalunya even as people were wondering what the club’s real stance was. Then, finally, after another appearance by Perez, this time on radio, the formerly gilded silence was broken.

Whether the motivation for that breaking of silence was a phone call, urgent plea or turning on a Bat Signal — or maybe it was Perez saying “Hey, you want to earn your cut, then get out there,” there Laporta was. He did an interview about the necessity of the deceased SuperLeague, the thing so sufficiently reviled that every Premiership club has apologized for attempting it, so gross that funding backer J.P. Morgan apologized. Do you have any idea how often colossal investment banks, particularly American ones, apologize? The Premier League is tightening up their bylaws to expel any team looking to take part in such a series, and what are Real Madrid and Barça doing? “Well, it’s not dead yet.”

In my fondest, most romantic hopes, Laporta would have come out and said, almost immediately, is “Look, this is something that was agreed to by my predecessor. I am aware of the potential effects this will have on football and I don’t like it. We are bound by contract for now, but I will urge every socio to vote against this. Our club cannot be a part of something so destructive. We are in financial danger, and will have to find a way out, just as we were forced to do before all of this.” Instead the club issued a statement and Laporta gave an interview. Both make it clear that he and therefore the club and its board, support the SuperLeague.

And that’s wrong.

You shouldn’t be one of those people who believes that “mes que un club” is a philosophical thing that makes the club pure, or speaks to any sort of high moral ground. Even if the club wouldn’t argue with anyone who believed such a thing. But this is a simple matter of right, wrong and actions taken that will (not can … will) wreck the game that we all love.

Laporta has said that the socis will vote on the matter, that it’s part of the process that has to continue lest the carcass of the SuperLeague outstretch a dessicated hand to demand money from a club that doesn’t have it. The outcome of that vote will be interesting. When Laporta successfully oversaw an Assembly vote to sell the shirt, then backed off, saying the fiscal crisis had passed, it was pulled out of mothballs by “Austerity” Rosell and away we go. Could a successful vote by the Assembly go the same route the next time a SuperLeague rears its head?

And what OF that vote. Clearly, the SuperLeague was great for Barça, right? A massive wad of cash at a time the club desperately needs it. How can anyone who supports the club be against that? The question is one of survival, which is assuredly how the vote will be pitched, if one still comes to pass. The club wants the SuperLeague, even as Laporta said during his interview that he is confident a rapprochement will be reached between the wantaways and UEFA. And he isn’t wrong, as the governing body welcomed everyone back with a sigh of relief, and will take no further action. Everybody’s happy, the money train is running.

Perez was absolutely right about the new Champions League format during his recent interview. It’s worse than the current format. But wrecking football isn’t the solution, just as even more football isn’t either. Comments from Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola make it clear that they believe football is too demanding of teams, that there are too many matches. In a world where a SuperLeague exists, like it or not, domestic competitions will become a casualty as soon as revenues from TV contracts get low enough for big clubs to withdraw in favor of their own thing with plenty of money. So it isn’t a question of mes que un anything as much as our club should be better than that. Our club is supposed to be better than that.

Pique has spoken out against it. That’s it.

The other aspect of this that is grim to consider is that for some time Barça has been becoming more like Real Madrid: huge signings, firing managers, craven, moneygrubbing boards. The SuperLeague is the firal plank in the platform that binds the two teams in more than an eternal rivalry. It binds them in morality as well. if the documents leaked about the SuperLeague are to be believed, Barça and Real Madrid were going to get an addition multimillion Euro payment above and beyond what the other clubs were going to get.

Supporters looking to justify their club’s involvement with some sort of high-road gobbledygook about how it’s all evil anyhow, blablabla should just admit they don’t care, and want what is financially best for the club, all else be damned. It’s okay to say that, aloud and in public, to own it.

This Saturday morning started with me watching Elche beat Levante, as two teams in the non-Super division clashed in a battle for survival. That’s football. The news that Newcastle grabbed a point at Anfield from the Super Liverpool brought a smile and a guffaw. That, too, is football. Sadly, so is the story of Bordeaux and how that storied French club’s American investors decided to pull the plug, sending the club into receivership. People won’t care as much about that football story, though. Bordeaux isn’t a storied club in the same way the “super” clubs were. If you asked the average fan about Bordeaux, many would wonder why Americans were investing in a vineyard anyhow.

Bordeaux is as much football as teams scrapping for a result to stay alive, scrapping to rub a bigger rival’s face in it. Because Bordeaux is about money, just like the SuperLeague proposal, just like the thing that joins Barça and Real Madrid so completely someone should make one of those disgusting half-and-half scarves, but make it the color of money.

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.