specials | 2015-06-12
Grup 14 talks with Jordi Farré - Part One
The presidential precandidate discusses La Masia, Cruyff, FIFA, Messi and new signings
Jordi Farré, a Barcelona-based businessman, was the first to confirm his interest to run for FC Barcelona president after ex-President Bartomeu called for elections in January. Now that the current board has resigned and with elections taking place on July 18, Grup 14 sat down with Farré to talk about the club’s situation, the future of the institution, his sporting and economical project, possible signings and much more.
In this in-depth interview you will find answers to many of the questions and concerns you submitted in the community.
Grup 14: Thanks for participating in this initiative that seeks to inform Barcelona fans throughout the world. One of Grup 14’s many goals is bringing unique and differentiated content to culés no matter where they are, and we appreciate you taking your time to discuss your objectives and ideas.
Jordi Farré: I think an international communication group, such as yours, is an important initiative and I’d like to congratulate you, because there are many culés around the world and if the cult for Barcelona has something, the “Més que un club”, precisely, is that it must allow people from everywhere to participate. We receive information from many different outlets and I think that, from now on and with you, I trust that information will be shown in English and other languages. I want to congratulate you, it’s a very important project and I encourage you to keep going with it because, as I’ve told you, we’re all Barcelona, we’re all followers, and we all have the right to be informed. In Barcelona, maybe it’s easier to get that information, but we don’t always get everything, and that’s why I’m glad that initiatives like yours are starting to appear.
Thank you very much, Jordi. Could you talk a bit about yourself?
I’m 39, live in Barcelona, but was born in L’Hospitalet, which is a city just 300 meters away from the Camp Nou and I’ve been a Barcelona member since the day I was born. As my father always used to say, I learned how to walk on Barça’s field, because at that time the sports center was in the same facilities as the stadium, and my father used to take me there because he was going to spend the day there. It was a meeting site and there I learned to take my first steps.
Currently, I own an engineering and industrial outsourcing enterprise. The important thing is to explain who forms the group I represent and lead. We’re a team of professionals: engineers, lawyers, economists and businessmen, and we all have a common denominator: we never took part in any candidature for Barcelona president before. One hundred percent of the team are new people, and we believe this is essential for the club because, if we take a look at other precandidates, they all came from 2003, even from 1997, with the candidature of Ángel Fernández, that was born from Elefant Blau. Therefore, they all come from this already broken family, and, in my opinion, they’re being harmful to the club, because they’re ruling with hate and personal quarrels.
When did you and your group decide to take part in the club’s politics?
I’ve always been a very socially active person at Barça. I’m a man who has traveled and has tried to participate in the club’s social life. I’ve collaborated with projects like GO Barça, for example.
Two-and-a-half years ago, we started to have conversations with people that had sensibilities similar to ours regarding the troubles that were occurring at Barça, and we decided to take a step forward and create a project with a very clear program, one that aims to be original and that prioritizes giving the members the real ownership of the club, because we feel that, currently, the members are the owners but can’t operate as such.
In April, you received the approval of the Deutsche Bank (Germany) for the loan necessary for running as club president, is that correct?
Yes, it was a topic that concerned us but that we managed to solve it, and that gives us the calmness of being able to take the necessary steps to be, after we gather the signatures, candidates to the elections without having administrative issues.
How do you think our relationship with other Spanish clubs, especially with Real Madrid, must be?
I think it’s very positive that the relationships between clubs are all good. Next year TV rights will be managed collectively, which is why it’s important we all act together. This doesn’t mean the interests are always the same (surely, the interests of Barcelona might be juxtaposed in some aspects to those of Real Madrid, Atlético Madrid or Valencia), but we must act together, each one watching for its interests.
You should always have the best relationships you can have, be it with other teams or with FIFA. One can’t allow a transfer embargo from FIFA to happen when they contacted us beforehand to try and solve the issue. After that there was the Ballon d’Or gala and the president of our club doesn’t even show up... It’s difficult to have a healthy relationship with someone when they invite you to important events and you don’t go. That was surely the moment to fix the problem, and it wasn’t done.
Collaboration and institutional relationships are very important and a fundamental stilt for our club. We must get along with everyone, without stopping to defend our interests, and we only need one more thing for that: professionalize the club. The club must have a very professional organizational structure. Board members have to be the best executives in the world. Barça is lucky to be able to pay the best. As a president I wouldn’t go and sign a player, I’d rather have the best to decide that.
The success of my enterprise is not just my success, it’s the success of all of my directors.
What about the union of the teams of Spanish first division, especially regarding the problem Barça has had with FIFA?
When we explained who I was, I said: “I’m not important, the important thing is the team.” And I think that at some point all the clubs must go together, because in union there is strength. If all the clubs went along, if all the clubs tried to change the regulations, the problem that Barcelona has (transfer embargo) could’ve been avoided. Because, at the end of the day, these rules regulate the clubs, and if the clubs want to change them, we can do it.
I remember that a few years ago, Formula 1 teams passed through something similar with the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and, acting together, they sorted it out. We all have the strength to change the laws, and the FIFA sanction subject was not dealt with correctly by Barça. They were warned and didn’t answer. The board acted with arrogance, and that’s an attitude that should not exist at Barcelona.
The reality is that this problem could be had by Real Madrid and other teams soon, and we have to stop this: we must explain to FIFA the needs of the big clubs. And when we explain such needs, we must push for laws that really ensure all the clubs can be treated equally.
Speaking of FIFA and UEFA, how do you think our relationship with these institutions must be? Do you think Barcelona is well represented in these entities?
I honestly think we’re not well represented, and one of the big objectives in our project is, precisely, that we must be very strong within the institutions. Barcelona is one of the footballing world’s most important entities, and we must have the most qualified people at the club. When we get to handle the club, I’ll have the best with me. I expect to be only a representative figure and the one who defines the strategy, and that the daily work is done by the best. Today, at Barça, I believe that’s not the case.
We would like to talk about your sports project. It has been described by the campaign’s website Som Gent Normal as a “brave, innovative one.”
We must keep improving the model that was brought by Cruyff, we know what the key points are. The essence of our football philosophy: keeping the ball, offensive gameplans, the academy. Mr. Cruyff started incorporating that in the club, and that’s the foundation of our work: that the sports model is uncontested.
Something else cited at Som Gent Normal is that you plan to give leadership to Barça’s members and fans.
What we will do is to divide the club very well between sports and general plans. We believe there must be two main directors: a sports one and a general or operations one. We will incorporate the model in all the structures, we will make sure that the model is the same everywhere.
We want to give power to the academy and we must go back to bringing the best from the academy. We believe that, at Barça, which is a global institution at the sport and social levels, the sports project is basic. Cruyff once said, “Money on the pitch and not in the bank.” We think the money must be on the pitch, but also that we must use an economic policy that allows that money to go to the field. We can’t spend more than we have, like we say here in Catalonia. We must be stern but also give the sports structure the necessary resources so we can have the best team in the world. The foundation is La Masia.
What do you think of Cruyff as a person, as a legend and an icon of Barcelona?
I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him personally, but Johan is an institution. We must bring back all the people who have been a part of this project and Johan is the living history of the club. He deserves to be treated and recognized as such, and to be really close to the entity. I like to have knowledgeable people beside me; the success I have achieved is thanks to my team, and I believe it’s basic we get that back. And not only Johan, but also other people related to the club who have not been treated with enough respect.
I’ll give you this in advance: one of the things we want to do is a walk of fame, where we can pay tribute to the real stars that have passed through the club and will remain for posterity. We want that when a boy, 60 years from now, strolls by the stadium, he knows who Xavi Hernández is: a person that no matter how much acknowledgment he gets, it’ll never be enough. The best Catalonian and Spanish player of all time played at Barça, and it’s Xavi. We believe that history should not be forgotten, because history gives us strength to face the future.
At Barcelona we have a statue of the great Lázló Kubala. What do you think about paying homage to historical players with things like naming the museum or stadium after them?
Barcelona’s museum is named after Josep Lluís Nuñez, and that must not happen, he is currently in prison. I would implement new rules on the club’s regulations prohibiting that no stadium nor symbol of Futbol Club Barcelona can have the name of a living director or manager, so what happened with the name of the museum doesn’t happen again. Homage is always paid to the artists, and those are the players.
I would have named the stadium Hans Gamper years ago: the name of our founder, who has no acknowledgment at all. On the other hand, a living person, who is in prison, gives name to our museum. That can’t happen!
We have talked about Johan Cruyff, the father of our model, but what do you think of the man who perfected the model, Josep Guardiola?
Pep was the student who surpassed the master and evolved the project, and one must always improve and adapt to the present. A person like Pep, who’s a great culé, started from the bottom; came from a very small town, started at La Masia, a ball boy at the stadium and then became a player, our best coach, and, as we know, a Catalonian figure and a very important man to every culé.
If Pep ran for president, I would vote for him. I think Guardiola must be treated as he is: the best coach in Barcelona’s history and one of our greatest homegrown players.
Pep used many players from La Masia during his years as a coach. As we all know, there’s a big issue in La Masia and now the B team was relegated to the third division. Who do you see as responsible for this?
What happened is simple: we had the best, now we don’t. And when you don’t take risks on a project, the project doesn’t work. For La Masia to work, you must have qualified people managing it, because you have to believe in La Masia. I think that, currently, the best are not at the club, and that’s what happened.
In April, I was at the Mediterranean International Cup that’s played in Costa Brava, and where, in their days, Ronaldinho, Neymar and other big names featured when they were children. And in this tournament, this year, I only saw Barça getting to two finals: the Infantil and Alevín sides. Infantil beat Real Madrid 4-2, and I liked them very much; and the Alevín lost the final against Real Madrid. But there were many finals in which Barcelona didn’t take part in, and we can’t afford that to be common. If we want the first team’s base to come from the academy, we must dominate the lower divisions.
To think that in the Juvenil category we have finished far behind the champions. Something’s failing, and, honestly, I think the sporting choices are not working. In fact, there is no sporting director, there’s a commission in its place. If I were president I would say I’m responsible for the current situation.
Speaking of La Masia, do you think we should have coaches that use and trust the system that gave us many victories since Cruyff’s return as coach, or depending on the results we can deviate from this path?
The model is non-negotiable. It’s one we approve of and we know how much it has worked, we must look after it. It’s primordial. The model is what it is, and for that, one must have coaches that believe in it. Otherwise, it won’t work.
Recently, players like Pogba and Verratti were linked with the club. Do you think we must sign players to adapt, fit in and improve the system?
To be successful you must look for players that fit in the team. If we need a full back, we can’t sign Douglas, for example, because he clearly lacked the quality and didn’t adapt to our ideas. Pogba seems like a player with an exceptional value to me, but the coaches must decide if he should be signed. I wouldn’t bring the Frenchman just because I like him as player. If the coaches decide the team needs Pogba, and the club has enough money for the transfer, then Pogba would certainly come. The coaches are the ones who know, and that’s why we must be surrounded by the best.
Who do you think should decide the signings?
There must be a general sports director and a technical secretary that directs the scouting teams, but the final decision must be made by the general sports director, the one that understands the whole sporting model of our club.
And have you got a clear name for the sports director?
We have. I know who I want, because I want the best, and that becomes easy. The day I become president, I’ll go and sign him.
The important thing is knowing what you want, and when you know what you want, it’s easy to look for the right professional. And the best want to work with the best team in the world, and the best team in the world is FC Barcelona.
Which direction should we take with scouting? For example, clubs like Porto and Bayern Munich have brought fantastic talent using their scouting network.
The current scouting team led the club to sign some questionable players. That’s why I can’t say it’s a good scouting, and that should be obvious.
I think we have the best attacking trio in football’s history, but to sign Suárez and Neymar you don’t need good scouting. You need it, for example, to bring Danilo, or Yaya Touré, when he signed for Barcelona, or Rafa Márquez. That’s what’s missing. Or that in Barça B, if players are signed, that they’re not like Kiko Femenía, for example. This must not happen.
People have spoken to me about a great member of the scouting team, Bojan Krkić’s father, that made positive reports to bring Yaya Touré and Benzema. He was a person whom everyone listened to. Why is he not at Barça anymore if he was qualified for it?
How do you feel about Lionel Messi? Do you think we should sell him to another club?
I don’t think anyone should even come across the idea that Messi could leave Barça. He’s the best player in the whole history of football, and we’ve had him at home since he was a boy, and he’s our symbol. There’s no point in selling Messi. I don’t know if we’ll ever find a player like Messi, but I do know that we won’t let this one go. That’s guaranteed.
Fans have watched Messi be attacked by the media and the club hasn’t defended enough. Even from Madrid, harsh attacks and lies about Messi have spread. Some even claimed he should be jailed.
If the Spanish authorities send all of the accused of fiscal felony to jail they should start building new prisons. On Messi’s topic, I don’t know exactly what happened, but he already paid, and Mister Montoro (Minister of Treasury) should leave Messi alone and dedicate himself to politics. Let’s leave Messi and his family alone. I even got to hear he was related to money laundering, and that can’t be. Let’s be serious. He’s the symbol of Barça and we’ll defend him. What I can assure you is that, if I become the president, all the members in my team will break our backs to defend Messi.
Many of our readers asked if you would like to name the stadium after Lionel Messi.
I think the biggest statue that should be made has to be of Messi, the biggest one. But I think right now is not the time for the stadium to be called Lionel Messi, because that’s also deserved by Pep Guardiola, Johan Cruyff, Kubala, Samitier, Ramallets… There are many great players and they all deserve their place at the walk of fame, to acknowledge their achievements as sportsmen. Maybe Messi’s one should be the biggest, but they’re all equally important.
What I do tell you is that the museum can’t be named Josep Lluís Núñez, as never should anything related to FC Barcelona be named Jordi Farré. That makes no sense.
A frequent question by our readers is your opinion on Luis Enrique’s fantastic work this season. Would you have kept him independently of the results and the trophies won?
About this it would be obvious to say that he stays now that he’s won trophies, but that will be decided by our general sporting director. Nowadays, I have thoughts on many things, but, you know what? I don’t want to turn this elections into a trading cards game. What I want is that people vote for a project, an idea, and if we start saying names, the project won’t convince anyone.
I remember the election that Laporta won. Joan made a great campaign and in the last few days he played the Beckham card, and he didn’t come. The Beckham card made us sign a goalkeeper named Rustu, and he was signed because his agent was Ferguson’s son, and it was him who allowed Beckham’s name to be said. This kind of thing can’t happen. We want members to vote for a project and a football idea.
What do you think of the current team and game style? Do you think it’s faithful to the style of La Masia?
I’ve talked to some that say it does, and some others that say it depends. For me, there are good and bad matches, but I saw a physically prepared Barça, a team that’s difficult to beat. And I saw a team that works very hard. If you ask, for example, the man that sits next to me at the stadium, he’d tell you that if we won every match by 1-0, not playing well, he’d be very happy. What I want, on the other hand, is to play and to win well like it was done this season.
We’ve got great players like Bravo, Suárez, Rakitic and ter Stegen, but we also have situations like Vermaelen’s, who was signed while injured... What do you think of these signings?
I think that success comes with planning. I think the signings of Vermaelen, Douglas and Mathieu (who I like as a player) show there was no planning. They’re signed because someone came across them one day, and that can’t happen. We must plan, and for that, we must professionalize the club, the sporting direction. With a good technical team, Douglas would never be signed by Barcelona.
You can be wrong about a signing, but in Douglas’ case I spoke with people in Brazil and they thought it was a joke that Barcelona wanted to sign him! We can't become a mockery because of bad planning.
What do you and your team plan about maintaining the team strong? Considering that the FIFA transfer embargo doesn’t allow Barça to register players until January 2016.
I think that next season will be one in which, during the first part of the league we won’t be able to sign, and it’ll be very difficult to integrate players in January. We must be brave and take risks with the academy. Even if it’s not working how it should, there are many great players at La Masia, and it’ll be the time to give them a chance. I really think so. There are cases like Grimaldo, Samper, Adama… We’ll be brave and plan well for 2016.
Now it’s not about buying players for the sake of it. That makes no sense. The important thing is the planning of the club, and results will come after.
Naturally, we received many questions from our readers about which players you would sign in 2016.
I will have the best general sporting director and the best technical secretary, and they’ll decide who we will sign. I can’t give you any names, that’s something the right people will decide and, at this moment, it’s a subject that does not worry me.
Let’s discuss the historic values of the club and appreciation of historic players.
One of the points in our project is to make a hall of fame. I mean, it makes no sense that Barça forgets its greatest assets, the ex-players. They deserve the greatest of acknowledgments.
The other day, for example, in Champions League draw Juventus had Nedved; Real Madrid had Butragueño, Bayern Munich had Paul Breitner and we were there with Ludovic Giuly. Giuly was a player that I liked very much, but I don’t think he’s a legend for Barça. We need an ambassador, and we have the greatest one can have, who would be a show of strength: Johan Cruyff. Why can’t we have Johan Cruyff represent Barça?
He’d be the best institutional representative in Europe and the world we could have. The other day I heard or read a tweet from Romário, who wrote something similar - that Cruyff was the best coach in the world and for him, one of the Top 10 players in history. I’ve never seen him play much, but [I've seen him] as a coach, and he’s definitely at the top. He’s the best institutional representative to go and negotiate with UEFA or FIFA. Do you think we’d have a transfer embargo if Cruyff was our ambassador?
That reminds us of the way Puyol left the club, even Valdés, leaving through the backdoor.
I think those are different topics, the Puyol and Valdés ones.
Valdés, I think it was due to his mistake. The greatest goalkeeper in Barça’s history, I think he made a mistake. But his decision deserves respect.
Puyol’s case is totally different. Puyol deserves to be key at Barça and he must be representing the club too. I know few Barça players that, when they leave, speak well of the institution. Something’s wrong. We must stop this.
I think Puyol does deserve a farewell match, and I think Valdés also deserves one; even if it’s true that Valdés made a mistake.
Can we expect any legendary player, any important figure, in your candidature?
Everyone that wants to participate in our project will be welcome. There are many important players in Barça’s history. We owe a lot to Ronaldinho, because he changed the history of the club in a difficult moment. There’s players like Bakero, Salinas… I listen to Salinas speaking Catalan, and I really like his integration within the country. Schuster, I believe that, even after having played in Madrid, he made great contributions. Quini, Rexach.. Players that would have a place in a hall of fame in England.
They’re all a part of our history, and everyone who wants to take part in our project will be able to do it, if they share our views for the future of the club.
You can read the second part here.
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