Bartomeu stepped down amid growing pressure.
The end of a turbulent era

The end of a turbulent era

FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and all his directors resigned this week following defeat in the Clásico with elections now on the horizon

Rob Palmer

Friday, 30 October 2020, 14:47


A football club owner once told me that when he finally sealed the deal, he found a closet full of skeletons he wasn't expecting. At FC Barcelona, the departing directors leave behind a whole graveyard of skeletons!

Normally a Clásico defeat shapes the sports news agenda for the whole week; this year it is merely a footnote to the drama in the Camp Nou boardroom. Sometimes managers get sacked, often players get dropped but in the aftermath of losing to Real Madrid the whole Barça board resigned.

It was a case of jumping before they were pushed. Twenty thousand 'socios' signed a petition of no confidence in the president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his cohorts and an election was called for. When Bartomeu failed to convince the Catalan government it was unsafe to hold an election in these Covid times, he bowed out.

He didn't go gracefully; it was a 35-minute diatribe with a hand-grenade of an aside thrown in at the end. Roughly it went: "It's not my fault, blah, blah, blah. Oh, yes... we've agreed to join a European Super League."

The Super League chat became a diversionary headline to the shambles he left behind. Almost every club that considers itself global is in negotiations for the proposed league. It's just that Barcelona made those negotiations... not so secret!

The new board inherits a growing debt, currently estimated at 100 million euros. They need to address losing Lionel Messi in the near future, what they should do with the ageing Gerard Piqué and Sergi Busquets and exactly how they manoeuvre through the nightmare of Covid.

Bartomeu rightly points out that they won the treble in his first year, and both LaLiga and the Copa del Rey four times. What he brushed over was selling Neymar and using the money to buy Ousmane Dembélé, Martin Braithwaite and Philippe Coutinho, among others, who haven't made an impression.

Dembélé hasn't performed, Braithwaite was a panic buy and Coutinho came back to haunt Barça as part of the Bayern team which inflicted the 8-2 humiliation.

So, what of the future?

Entrepreneur Víctor Font wants to use Xavi as his running mate and promises reform. Toni Freixa is sympathetic to Ronald Koeman but less so to Lionel Messi. Joan Laporta is also back on the scene. He was the president who promised David Beckham but delivered Ronaldinho and later promoted Pep Guardiola when many wanted a superstar manager rather than the B team coach.

Remember once upon a time when FC Barcelona was regarded as the model club? The next president will inherit a fractured organisation with so many people pulling in completely different directions. Let's also not forget the social media scandal when there were accusations of fake news being leaked.

The White House has got nothing on this. Prepare for an election campaign that could make Trump versus Biden look tame.

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