These are perhaps the most precarious times ever experienced at Barcelona Football Club, with the club facing debts in excess of €1.17 billion. The dark clouds have been steadily gathering above the Nou Camp over the last five years under the presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu, with the storm eventually arriving in the shape of an 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals.
There were more storm surges to come over the following summer as Lionel Messi did everything in his power to orchestrate a move away from the Nou Camp. The socios had seen enough and a club election was called when Bartomeu stepped down in October after making the club’s financial position clear. Radical change was needed, and fast.
Bayern Munich wasting no time 👊
Three minutes on the clock and Thomas Muller fires home after linking up with Lewandowski 🔴
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 14, 2020
The Second Coming of Joan Laporta
A Returning Figure
On the 7th of March, it was announced that the club’s supporters had voted in former Barca president, Joan Laporta, for a second term. In these unprecedented times, the fans had opted for Laporta’s charisma and magnetism in favour of a fresh approach with modern ideas. Who can blame them though? In essence, the socios know Barcelona need a miracle and have turned to a man who managed to provide one during his first stint as president.
Laporta’s second coming could serve to galvanize the club in their bid to win La Liga. Indeed, being only four points adrift of league leaders Atletico Madrid and at betting odds of just 3/2 to win their first title since 2019, success is very much in the grasp of the club’s new president. However, Barcelona’s problems are so severe off the pitch that even a La Liga title won’t do much to plug the gaping hole in their finances.
Laporta’s first port of call is to sit down with his team and assess how bad the situation is behind the scenes. In a telling indication of how Laporta sees the financial future of the club, the 58-year-old didn’t promise a marquee signing in his election manifesto which does differ from his campaign strategy in 2003 and 2015. In 2003, Laporta promised to sign David Beckham from Manchester United, and in 2015 during his failed campaign, Laporta vowed to sign Paul Pogba from Juventus.
These days and with Barca being on the verge of financial ruin, there can be no such promises. In fact, Laporta’s election win was built on him calling out his rivals ‘irresponsible’ plans to try and sign Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland whilst offering no solutions to pay back over a €1 billion worth of looming debt.
Instead, Joan Laporta has insisted that the club will rely on their famous academy of La Masia rather than the cheque-book for their next batch of superstars. One could almost say that once again Laporta is in the right place at the right time in terms of the offerings on La Masia’s conveyor belt. It was back in 2003 that Laporta was able to call on homegrown youngsters such as Andres Iniesta, Victor Valdes, Xavi, and Carlos Puyol to launch his presidency. In 2021, it is Ansu Fati, Oscar Mingueza and Ilaix Moriba that are the young jewels from La Masia that will be the hallmark of his early reign as president. These are complemented well by other youngsters such as Pedri, Sergino Dest and Trincao that Barca have astutely signed.
Current Barca boss Ronald Koeman has thrown them in the deep end during the La Liga run-in and at the time of the March international break, Barca had won five league games in a row. The Catalan club are very much on the change once again, similar to those heady days of 2004 when unprecedented success would soon follow.
An important point to make is that those La Masia youngsters of the mid-2000s had the genius of a certain Brazilian called Ronaldinho to call on. The flamboyant playmaker made Barca tick and gave the young stars a blank canvas in which to express themselves. Laporta will remember as much and will understand the importance of another influential number ten to bring the masterpiece together. That could involve keeping Lionel Messi, or letting him go and using his eye-watering wages to bring in someone to fill the ‘Ronaldinho roll.’
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 17, 2021
It, of course, sounds a lot easier on paper, but the frightening reality is that one false step from Joan Laporta could bring the Barcelona empire down, such is the perilous state of their finances.
The Barcelona supporters have chosen their man to lead them through the wilderness and perhaps rather revealingly, we can conclude by revisiting a famous Catalan saying that goes, ‘better the crazy we know than the wise stranger.’