opinions | 2015-07-18
Why I didn't vote for Bartomeu
In the world of football, it’s common to say that a country has millions of coaches. In the case of Barça, besides coaches, we’re also presidents. Each one has an idea of how the club must be managed. I don't identify with the way Bartomeu’s board sees the club, and that’s why I’ve decided to share this text explaining why.
Barça and its members: The decision of partially close the club, hindering the registration of new members, I think it goes against the spirit of the club. It’s a dangerous way of wanting to control the club. It’s the idea of the fewer members there are and the closer they are, the better. The members are scared with the idea of other people to come and buy the club while we leave it in control of a few people. Meanwhile, clubs like Bayern register new members every year, reaching historic numbers, Barça is losing members in the most glorious period in club’s history. In one year (from October 2012 to November 2013), Barça lost 40.000 members, reaching a total of 130.000. In that same span, Bayern registered 30.000 new members, reaching 224.000.
Do we want to be the club of all the culés or just a few? One thing is to be the owner of the club and a different one is not wanting to share it with other fans. In this matter, I worry because of the vision of Jordi Cardoner, a board member who sees the fan from outside of Catalonia as a mere buyer of shirts and tickets at exorbitant prices. You can’t despise the fans in such a way just or where they come from. There are many, many foreign fans that love the club as much, or even more than a local fan. They are much more than a number in a social network, they worry about everything that happens in the club. Is it still too much? That’s what they have to think about. It’s harder to control a member that’s not being constantly bombarded by the propaganda from Grupo Godó. Many of those fans show a great interest for what happens in the club, not only the football matches. In the middle of globalization, you can’t close the club. If we want to be the best club in the world, we must be the club with most fans in the world.
Barça and La Masía: We have spoken a lot about this. From my point of view, the things are not as bad as some say, but it is still clear there are things that are being done wrong. The FIFA ban, which came from neglect when Bartomeu was in charge of the football section, has affected many teams and the management of Barça B and Juvenil A. Two teams that are parts of the professional sections, has recently been a disaster. Short-term results have been prioritized over the formation of players. Regarding signings, most of the times it seems that having a good agent is more important than being a good player.
You can shows numbers of the players that have been debuted in the first team since 2010, but the reality is that, since Pedro and Busquets, no other player has consolidated himself in the starting XI of the first team. And this is not a matter of it being more or less difficult now than it was before, it’s about confidence. Busquets wasn’t better than Touré at first, just like Pedro wasn’t better than Henry. Does anyone remember the criticism after the 1-1 tie with Racing with both of them in the starting line-up? Iniesta had the competition of Deco, Motta, Van Bommel and Xavi, too. Rijkaard made Iniesta play as everything. As a pivot, as an deep lyng midfielder, as a winger… The important thing was that he used him, and that being the 12th player, he participated in all the League matches. Van Bommel was sold and the rest is history.
However, in the last few years, we’ve seen how many players with little future in the club like Song or Douglas have taken the place of Academy players like Thiago or Montoya. Song was signed because, in theory, he was a defensive midfielder that, Wenger said, could play as centre back. As a defender he was a disaster, he ended up playing as pivot, a position in which Barça surely had and will keep having the best two in the world (Busquets and Mascherano). Instead of betting on Thiago and develop his game in a position where Guardiola, Xavi and Iniesta have played in the first team, his role was reduced, just as his release clause. Then, in Bayern Munich, and despite the injuries, he has proven that he could’ve played in front of the defense.
It’s not the same that a world class player as Suárez replaces Sandro as Montoya having to go out on loan because of Douglas. Barça must always have the best players in the world. Would Iniesta be as good without the influences Laudrup had in his style? Surely not. Players of such level make the club and the academy kids better. The problem relies in the players that don’t improve our own.
Now, we have the Rafinha case. His contract ends in a year, so he might leave the club for free at the end of the season, Barça signs Arda and negotiates with Gerson. No one seems to worry about this. Then, the player will be blamed if he decides to follow the steps of his brother, or if he negotiates a contract with a favorable exit clause.
There’s Deulofeu, too. A player that featured in the youth teams without anyone to help him improve in his off the ball and positional game, something basic in Barça’s system. A player with an outstanding talent in the one-on-one lasted a week in the first team. A player that we should polish, but we forced him out for other clubs to do it. A player that what he needs the most in this moment of his career is being surrounded by veterans to teach him to be a professional.
An aspect that has been ignored is the treatment towards the academy players. And this topic is really disturbing for me. There are players banned by FIFA than haven’t received all of the necessary support from the club. Let’s not forget that the kids that can’t play are the main victims. Barça, in one way or another, kept on signing. There’s also the Marc Muniesa case, who after many years in the club, stepped out without anyone to talk with him. These boys that have been a long time in the club need to be depart with respect, meeting with them and their parents if it’s needed. Those must be the La Masía values.
I don’t want to forget about three things that Rosell commented in 2010 about La Masía that appalled me. The first one was assuring that all the African kids falsify their birth dates and, because of that, they have an advantage over the Catalonian kids. The second one was that they need to play futsal in La Masía, because that’s what the Brazilians do. The third one is that La Masía was in awful shape, when it surely was in its best moment. Besides the obvious racist comment, the last two are quite worrying if someone in Bartomeu’s board thinks the same.
Barça and Qatar: What’s there to say about this? Barça has always been recognized as a democratic club, and the link with Qatar does not represent the values of the club. A club whose stadium was closed for jeering the Spanish dictatorship can’t brandish a state that seriously limits the freedom of speech on its chest. Has someone wondered what would happen in Qatar if they jeered the Emir?
I also find incompatible to promote UNICEF on a side and Qatar in the other. Because Barça helps Qatar by giving it visibility in the shirt of the most popular club of today. For them, 30, 70 or 100 million are the same, what’s important is for the whole world to see Qatar’s name. I think it’s incompatible to collaborate with UNICEF while Qatar exploits foreign workers. It’s like helping charity out on the streets and having a slave at home.
One day we’ll know why Rosell sold the shirt to Qatar and if the agreement was good for Barça or for him. Amongst all, his businesses in Qatar are well known and some media have linked Rosell with the voting buying of the World Cup. I find it surprising that a club that never had sponsorship in their shirt sold themselves this fast and for market value. The logic thing is that there were a list of sponsors trying to be the first enterprise in ending the tradition of not having a commercial sponsor. Not even Qatar had to overpay for such honor. It’s also surprising that, two days ago, just Qatar had made a bid, and now there are bids coming from everywhere.
Then, there’s the misconception of “without Qatar, we can’t compete”. The European Cup was created in 1955. Just one champion, the last one, carried Qatar in the shirt. That club, Barça, won its first 4 titles without Qatar. Do we really need a sponsor in 2015? Even if we do, let’s have one that has a good synergy with the club. A sponsor that all of the culés can feel proud about. Or let’s look for alternatives, but what’s clear is that Barça’s too big to need Qatar to compete.
Barça and the Camp Nou: If you ask any member if they want a new, better and more comfortable stadium, they’ll all agree. Who wouldn’t want something like that? In fact, the members were asked about it and 73% of them said “yes” despite not knowing about the project. Only that it’ll initially cost €600 million and that it’ll be new and pretty. I am, obviously, in favor of a new Camp Nou, Barça should own the best stadium in the world, but I don’t know how much will it really cost or who will build it, nor if Barcelona’s City Hall will approve it. Neither do I know if Bartomeu’s Board will be able to keep its promise. In 2010, Sandro Rosell’s Board pretended to urbanize the area surrounding the Camp Nou with the creation of a new Palau and a hotel, amongst other things. Camp Nou would also be reformed. The cost was supposed to be 150 million euros. Five years later, here we are, no hotel, no Palau and those 150 million are now 600 million. If in five years they didn’t managed to invest 150 million, how will they manage to invest 600 in the next 6 years? Assuming the number remains there. Most of the stadiums reach numbers nearing a billion.
Then there’s the issue of the financing. It is said that we won’t be lose assets, but isn’t the name of the Camp Nou an asset of the club? No one would change the name to the Güell Park or the Sagrada Familia. If we put a “last name” on the stadium, it will disappear 20 years in the future. The next thing would be to put a “last name” to La Masía, I imagine. I’m aware that financing will be needed, but we must be creative.
According to Deloitte, Barça has an economic impact in the city of Barcelona of 759 million euros and it generates 6% of the city’s tourism. We need to question why the city doesn’t help the club, not even with transport. In the USA, the cities invest millions of dollars to finance private stadiums. Although, it is true that Barça can’t make a threat of moving the club to another city.
Regarding creativity, if what will be made is an open space, such space is the one that must have a last name. In that way, the Camp Nou would be inside the Espai Sony or whatever. They could also sponsor different areas of the stadium without changing the name. I don’t want a Board that always takes the easy way.
Barça and football: Treble and trident. The most repeated things in the electoral campaign. As a slogan, no one can deny it sells. But, what’s behind those two words? How much planning and how much improvisation?
Luis Enrique was Zubizarreta’s choice to replace Tito Vilanova, but Rosell proposed Martino. Rosell surely wanted to prove his great football knowledge and that Barça can win stepping away from the model of the last 25 years. Let’s recall that Bartomeu and Rosell have always wanted to open the way for “new ideas” and “new models”. Zubizarreta accepted the President’s decision and Martino coached Barça for a year, which ended with no trophies. Mid-season, Bartomeu wanted to renew Martino, of course. And the idea would’ve endured if this Messi goal had been validated.
But that goal was not validated and then came Luis Enrique, who’ll stay as long as the ball goes in. As in January he was more out than in, and now everything he wants must be brought in June, not caring if the new players couldn’t play until 6 months later. I’d like to have a Board that knows what model it wants for the football team and not changing the model according to the results.
Talking about coach petitions, it’s sad that during the first 4 years of their term, if the coach asked for a center back, none was signed. Now, however, everyone signs. I wonder if it will remain like this or it will change after the elections. Because Luis Enrique will soon ask for a center back (Mascherano’s 31 and Mathieu’s on his way for 32) and being another 5 years without signing one would be a disaster.
Who’ll be in charge of signing the new center back? Zubizarreta used to do it, except for when the President intervened. Last summer Zubi had more power than ever and, together with Luis Enrique, planned the squad. He had full support from Bartomeu until the team lost in San Sebastián and Zubi got tired of the Board-friendly media blaming him for the FIFA ban. Saying Bartomeu was the Sporting Director in that time was his end. My opinion on Zubi’s work is not very positive, someone that claims he doesn’t watch the French League can’t be Barça’s coaching secretary, but at least is a football person. Football choices must be taken by football people, and in Bartomeu’s candidature, this topic seems to have no importance. Rexach and Braida seem enough for them. When will we get a serious, modern sportive structure?
Barça must be the only club that sells players at the beginning of the summer and at low prices. Last summer, Fàbregas and Alexis were sold in June 12th and July 11th respectively, for around €80 million for both. Real Madrid sold Di María in late August for 75 million euros. Not only that, both Barça players have had amazing performances, and Mourinho himself was surprised on how fast he signed Cesc.
They also buy fast and high. Arda had a clause of €41 million and he only wanted to play at Barça. Atlético wanted to sell him. Well, their greatest achievement was reducing the €41 million to €41 million in the form of €34 million and €7 in variables, of those ones that are easy to pay. Having a Board that knows how to move in the market would also be good for the club.
Barça and economics: Everyone will remember that in 2010 there was no money for color copies. Such exaggeration seems like it’s not enough, because now it turns out that Barça was not the club with the second higher income in the world in 2010. What’s really concerning, is the stagnation that took place between 2012 and 2014 (Graphic from Deloitte):
Or that the income from commercial contracts decreased in 1%. In that same period, Real Madrid, Bayern and Manchester United grew 40% in that aspect, according to Deloitte. One of the things that bugs me the most of Bartomeu’s Board are lies and manipulations like this one. Deloitte report of June 2015: http://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/uk/Documents/sports-business-group/deloitte-football-money-league-2015.PDF [PDF]
There’s something that really gets my attention. In 2010, it would be fair to claim that Laporta was not cautious enough regarding some potential losses, like the Sogecable trial. But Rosell’s Board was extremely cautious, too. Also, it included the rescission of Henry’s contract in Laporta’s accounts and Touré’s sale in his, despite Laporta leaving both signings. Both should’ve been in the same term, ideally in Rosell’s, because both were completed in July. You can see all the information here: http://www.sport.es/es/noticias/barca/los-siete-puntos-clave-del-juicio-contra-junta-laporta-3520356 [Spanish]
If the same logic was applied today, they should include the total of the possible losses due to Neymar case. There’s no provision that I know of, unlike 2010, where everything was completely provisioned. It would be interesting to see the club’s accounts following the same criteria. I say it to compare apples and apples. An article about Barça’s accounts in 2010: http://swissramble.blogspot.com.es/2010/08/whats-happening-with-barcelonas.html
I also wanted to comment on the last club balance. Income record (€608 million) and €15 million in benefits. They claim that Barça is in first place without knowing the income Real Madrid, Bayern and Manchester United will have. Let’s say it’s already half true that they’re comparing the 2014-2015 Barça’s period with the 2013-2014 period of the other clubs.
In spite of the big figures of income, not everything is positive. Expenses have increased in 23% (€109 million) and the debt went from €287 million to €328 million. Add to that the €41 million from Arda, and we reach €369 million. That would mean that the debt has increased €4 million since 2010-2011 season. It wouldn’t be something to brag about when you hold a campaign about debt reduction and austerity.
Anyway, the debt is not the most worrying thing (except facing the building of the new stadium). What’s really worrying are the wages, which have increased in 100 million euros in just one season. The total amount of expenses in staff was €419 million euros last season. This number represents 73% of the billing of the club when UEFA suggests a maximum of 70%. Doesn’t seem like a figure fitting to an austere policy, to be honest. It’s better to clarify that I included all the wages of the club, not just the football section.
Barça and the law: Here, I imagine each one has their own opinion. Mine’s pretty clear, every sued board member with possibilities of going to jail should step down for the sake of the club. In fact, I think that should be stipulated in the club’s statutes. Figuring out if it’s fair or not seems like a waste of time. What’s clear is that even a five year old boy can see that, in Neymar’s case, there are clear signs of a contract simulation to avoid paying taxes from a signing bonus. Or that it was paid in buying options for players that will never go to Barça, or for a friendly against Santos that will never be played. If Bartomeu wants to defend Barça, as he says, the best he can do is avoid every chance there is for a President of the club to end up in jail. As little as that chance might be.
Barça and its sections: Bartomeu has been, twice, in a direct or indirect way, responsible for the basketball team. In both cases, 2003 and 2010, it was after winning the Euroliga and in both cases, there was a drop in the team. Barça’s basketball team should be the most attractive option for any top level player that couldn’t find a spot in the NBA, or that simply wants to play in Europe. Right now, this is not the case. Rudy Fernández or Sergio Rodriguez left NBA for Real Madrid and today they’re Europe’s champions. This summer it seems there has been interest in Shved and Datome, and they preferred Russia and Turkey respectively. Calathes, that was also rumored to Barça many times, went back to Panathinaikos. In such a reduced market, where each time more European players move to NBA, it’s impossible to compete for the Euroliga without these players and that’s seen year after year.
The handball case has always been curious. There has always been missing a great squad player to make the difference in decisive moments. That player was signed, Karabatic, and right when we get back to where we’re supposed to be, European Champions, PSG takes it from us thanks to Qatar. With sponsors like Qatar, who wants enemies?
A little comment on women’s football. I know that most of the people don’t care and they don’t even give them a chance, but what bothers me is the lack of support. They’re supposed to become professionals at last, but many of the best players are leaving the club and it seems like one of them complained that the situation at Barça is not that different from the one in the National Team. We just need that there are chauvinist attitudes in the club, too.
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