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A LOOK AT LA LIGA

A reputation in tatters

Josep Maria Bartomeu, president of FC Barcelona.
Josep Maria Bartomeu, president of FC Barcelona. / AFP
  • FC Barcelona boasts to be 'més que un club' but this lockdown period has coincided with a serious breakdown of relations within the club

The reputation of FC Barcelona as the club held in the highest esteem for its pure football and proudest principles appears to be in ruins.

'Més que un club' is the slogan of an entity that boasts to be 'more than a club', refusing to sully the shirt with a commercial sponsor, playing pure enviable football and acting as ambassadors for the people of Catalonia in trying times.

This lockdown period has coincided with a breakdown of relations within the club. The region is used to political battles with Madrid but right now it is enduring a civil war within the walls of the Camp Nou.

President Josep Maria Bartomeu's tenure will end in 2021 and it looks like he'll leave a mess for his successor to clean up. It's a tangled tale!

This week, six directors resigned from the board, including his heir apparent Emili Rousaud, who made accusations that someone at the club had their "fingers in the till".

What is meant by that is unclear and a legal minefield, but it's obvious that all is not harmonious in Barcelona.

At a historic club, it's a conflict with a very modern twist. It appears the president sanctioned the hiring of a social media monitoring company that has proven to be even more damaging than Donald Trump's tweets. The company apparently has a background of being uncomplimentary towards Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué.

Fast forward a couple of months and those two players are the influencers when their club is trying to persuade the players to agree to a 70 per cent pay cut. The players were not averse to doing the right thing, but unhappy they were being railroaded into making the decision without complete, considered communication.

This follows the disposal of the diplomatic coach Ernesto Valverde in the winter. Some thought the legendary Xavi Hernández would return, but he's wisely sidestepping the situation until the dust settles.

Quique Setién couldn't refuse a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join one of the great clubs. but he's managing a situation that is beyond his powers.

Above him, he has a president who has lost control; around him he has players who are clearly disturbed - and this is all before the football resumes.

The jumbled thinking was summed up by the panic buy of Martin Braithwaite when Luis Suárez was injured in the winter. The game's equivalent of stocking up on loo roll.

Barça won't be able to buy their way out of trouble in the summer given the financial difficulties and may have to barter their way to success. Neymar continues to make noises about returning but his transfer fee isn't feasible.

Ivan Rakitić, aware that he may be used as currency, quite righty exclaimed that he isn't "a sack of potatoes".

Once, FC Barcelona was upheld as a virtuous example of how a club should be run and how football should be developed. Now it is an off-the-field soap opera that is keeping us entertained during the lack of on-field action.