offpitch | 2015-07-07
Agustí Benedito: We have more than five companies better than Qatar
The precandidate talks about the kit sponsor and his institutional and sporting plans
Agustí Benedito endorsed Ángel Fernández candidacy in 1997. He was one of the “Elefant Blau” founders and supported Lluís Bassat in 2000 before winning the 2003 elections as Laporta’s board member. After six years in the sporting and social committees, he broke off with Laporta because of the “Uzbekistan case” and he ran in the 2010 elections, placing second behind Sandro Rosell, with 8,044 votes. Since then he’s preparing his candidacy, certain he can be the next FC Barcelona president.
Can you win an election after the club has just got the treble?
Sure you can, people are aware that winning the treble is due to players, not the board.
Is it a tough campaign because few names can be said?
All campaigns have a transcendence. And this one is special because we are dealing with the patrimony, the “Espai Barça”, which can condition the club economically for the next 50 or 60 years.
Does it help to talk about Pogba?
I know it’s hard, but we’re trying to talk about the what, not the who. We’re presenting our program in the earnest way, explaining the proposals and trying to avoid the names debate. I understand it works for some, but it’s very difficult to make signings as a pre-candidate.
But have you deal with him [Pogba]?
We talked to Pogba a couple of months ago. We had to know his surroundings and financial situation. His economic conditions were out of our range and they’d suppose a financial stress for the club, because of the demanded salary and Juventus €80 million fee.
Disparaging statements help a lot in a campaign, do you hold yourself back?
Barça is a unique club before the world because a presidential election doesn’t take place in any other club. We are going to give it the importance it deserves. With that kind of statements, we’d be diminishing it.
Will you be more aggressive after you get the required signatures to be a candidate?
If we are going to win, we will do it in the final stretches, in the final debate. We will be two or three points behind the leading candidate with the elections two hours away. We don’t want to be on the attacking line, it’s not good for us. If you’re three or four points behind, you can win the election with the final debate.
Have you make any advances regarding Qatar’s replacement [as the main sponsor]?
We have more than five companies to whom we have spoken seriously and they all want to be Barça’s sponsor. There are a lot of people interested, but I’m not the president, I’m a candidate. And to negotiate the best deal you have to do do it with the authority.
From which sectors are these companies?
I can only say they are in the automotive and airline businesses.
Are they better offers than Qatar?
But are they the only ones who can get good sponsors? They are offers of more than €60 million, way more! Actually, I don’t know how they haven’t been able to get more money. Manchester United gets €81 million. Barça’s jersey, especially after Berlin, is the most valued by the companies.
What makes you different from the other candidates?
Beyond some topics which concern us all, like Qatar and the Espai Barça, we have to agree all former presidents have done good and bad things: Laporta, Rosell and Bartomeu. Disagreement and plurality are good, but we are crossing dangerous lines and we must begin to put aside the fights because if Bartomeu or Laporta wins, we’ll keep hurting each other.
What makes peace a guarantee with you?
We don’t have personal resentments among us. I greet each one of them with kindness. But they have [Laporta and Bartomeu] a personal brawl that is getting more complicated and doesn’t have a turning point.
You said you didn’t trust Laporta and that you’re “incompatible” with Bartomeu.
The Qatar thing is not a pretense. Not everybody has to understand international politics, but I know it for myself. I see them travelling to Doha and it gives me a stomachache. We have two different club models, Bartomeu and me. Regarding Laporta, back in the days, in 1996 and 1997, we were on the same page, but he left just like that one day. He acts in a way it doesn’t give me confidence. We have seen his huge mistakes and he has proven to me how bad he can behave, such as in the “Uzbekistan case”.
Is Laporta making La Masia of his own?
Laporta has stuck with four subjects and he doesn’t change the script: La Masia, Unicef, Cruyff and Catalunya. We don’t know much about his proposals. It’s his electoral strategy.
How will you deal with Cruyff?
I was born in 1964 and he arrived in 1973. I was astonished from day one. As culés, we are lucky. He’s ours. As president, I’d love to hear his advice. Another subject is making him Honorary President, that doesn’t exist.
Who is more interested in a low voting turnout?
I think about 45,000 socís will vote. And maybe you can win the election with 17,000 votes. If Laporta, for example, has a 25% support, 15% of them will vote for him no matter what. He could run naked on the Rambla and they’d still vote for him. But the other 10% is more sensitive. A low voting turnout is good for Bartomeu, whose average supporter is over 60 years old, conservative people. His troubles begin below 35 years old, there, he can’t get even 6%. But I don’t know if the youngsters will vote on July 18. A politician has told me a low voting turnout is good for me, I have been there for my people and they will not forsake me. I’ve been talking to them for the past five years.
How will your technical structure be?
I’ll present it without names. I won’t name a Sporting Director either. It will be a professional technical secretary formed by the first team coaches, La Masia coaches, a Methodology person and another one from scouting. Everyone with a link to the board.
Does Monchi [current Sevilla FC Football Director] have a place in there?
I haven’t spoken to him in the past few days, but I did months ago. He must be taken into account because of his skills. But he’s happy in Sevilla.
Did you speak with Koeman for the coach role?
Months ago, when Luis Enrique hadn’t confirmed his continuity and my responsibility was to look for other options. We talked to Koeman and many others, but Luis Enrique stayed and we have a coach. I’m pleased with this.
How will you improve La Masia?
We are worried not just for the Barça B or Juvenil results, but by the fact we have forsaken La Masia. We have technical, methodology, coordination and coaching problems. We’ll set up two leaderships in La Masia: one for Barça B and Juvenil A and B, and one for Cadete and below.
And the institutional influence?
We have lost our influence. You just have to look at the FIFA case. If you got a warning letter and they’re investigating you, and in 7 days you haven’t taken an airplane to talk it out personally, you’re already late. If you’re strategy is to play rough, that’s bad. They sinned out of arrogance.
Has Barça been suffering because of the Neymar Case?
No, Barça is suffering for a bad management from the president and vice-president. They haven’t had issues with any other transfers. Only with this one because it was done badly. We have signed Suárez without troubles. The Neymar Case has put the club at great risk.
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