“As we learned from Bartomeu, Laporta must have someone to tell him what doesn’t work”

BarcelonaBarça’s financial situation is very delicate. While in the field of sports, with the arrival of Xavi, the model is slowly recovering, the box is short of money for everything that the entity has to manage. Despite the fact that President Joan Laporta has been holding the position of honor at the Camp Nou box office for a year now, the legacy of Bartomeu’s principal is still dragging on (and will be for a long time). Marta Ramon, ARA columnist and RAC1 journalist, has stated in her book Bartomeu’s poisoned legacy the different circumstances that have led to the “collapse of the best club in the world.”

Laporta found a club “in the ICU”. Is Barça still in intensive care?

– Barça are no longer in the ICU in the sense that they are recovering vital signs, especially in the field of sports. The moment Xavi arrives as coach, we can say that Laporta’s real term begins. Xavi became a bit of an archaeologist for the model and unearthed some ideas that should never have been squandered. Even if you are having problems, the path is the right one. The moment Xavi is chosen, he puts a stop to a sports drift that was going nowhere. This drift did not end with the arrival of Laporta, as with Koeman it reached even further to the bottom of the well, but from Xavi the patient is recovering. In the economic section, the blow has stopped, but there is a lot of work to be done. The coming months are key: both in terms of short-term economic sustainability and with a long-term view on projects such as Espai Barça. There are several tests of fire that this board will have to face imminently and they have yet to show that the road is solid. Decisions must be made with caution when offering certain renewals, in terms of salaries and signings. The image that is transferred from the club is one of restraint and responsibility. Barça are not much better now than they were a year and a half ago, but they are better. When Bartomeu left the club, if Barça were a company he would have had to close, because he was technically bankrupt. It was hard to fall lower.

Is the starting point of the decline the departure of Neymar?

– His escape in the summer of 2017 is going very well as a turning point especially in making economic decisions that affect the first team. From the start is when the payroll skyrockets and Bartomeu begins to make very bad decisions that hurt the club financially. It goes hand in hand with bad decisions at the sporting level, where, if we look at it, things were already going badly with the palpable abandonment of the football model that had made Barça great. A sheet was lost with each wash. The style was diluted and in the end the situation seemed irreversible.

Do you mean in the book that Bartomeu has left a manual of everything that can’t happen again?

– The book is a journalistic story with a very bad trajectory for the club. Without the intention of judging anyone, President Bartomeu is very upset. His big mistake was to shut himself in an ever-shrinking hard core and obsess over his legacy: wanting to be the president who inaugurated the Espai Barça, the one who achieved the most Champions, the one with a billion in revenue … Looking for all these great headlines got lost a bit in the simplicity of everyday life. It is normal to make mistakes, but there was a time when Bartomeu lost track of the reality of the club. He, in turn, was telling himself a narrative that didn’t really reflect what was going on.

Marta Ramon's book 'Bartomeu's Poisoned Legacy'.

It is a warning to sailors.

– The facts I collect in the book should not happen again, and should be a lesson for the future for the club. As we have learned from Bartomeu, Laporta cannot reduce his core and must have someone tell him what does not work. Be critical and raise your arm when things are not going well. With personalist and presidentialist presidents, you may lose a little sense of what is needed. If you want Barça to be a benchmark in the world, you have to have the best in every department, and that should be required of a Barça president.

What role did Jaume Masferrer play?

– He is a key person in understanding Bartomeu’s mandate. He is a very influential person in decision making and knew everything that Bartholomew thought, all his plans and decisions went through him. Sometimes Masferrer is portrayed as someone who moves the wires and Bartomeu simply lets himself be carried away. This is a very comfortable read and it helps to justify and relativize Bartomeu’s responsibility in what he decided as president. I do not agree. I think the former president is responsible for the decisions he made and I think Masferrer should be given a parallel role. Bartomeu chose Masferrer and gave him the post, first unofficially and then officially, and went blind with him. Bartomeu is in charge of everything.

Are these decisions that leave the club against the ropes made out of bad faith or incompetence?

– There is a bit of incompetence. There are negligent behaviors that I find difficult to understand if they simply respond to a certain mediocrity or if there is something else. I think Bartomeu was a bit of a cowardly president and he was afraid of the dressing room. I always wanted to keep the players happy and I fell victim to that. The players took advantage, everything has to be said. There is a lack of not knowing how to deal with complex situations and often acting reactively and preventively out of fear. Bartomeu is a president who comes to power because he wins the triplet, and they know that in the locker room. There is a kind of debt, and that conditions the whole term. There is always a very strange relationship between the market and the dressing room. In addition, Bartomeu was a president who during his term of office stopped trusting his colleagues: he hid information from them, hid decisions he made, invented parallel circuits of approval to be able to do what he believed it was more convenient without his boardmates finding out.

To what extent can a Barça president be subject to the pressures of the dressing room or act in front of the gallery?

– I automatically think of Laporta. He may have flaws, which he has like everyone else, but by contrast he is a president with the ability to lead, who takes the bull by the horns, who communicatively gives an image of having the situation under control … Then he can have it under control or not, but at least the image it transmits is control. It also seems to me that in situations of going into melee he has more ability to solve complex moments that he has to be strong or impose what is best at that moment for Barça, which is something that Bartomeu that sense of club was missing. Bartholomew was a survivor and did whatever it took to survive. This somehow explains his relationship with the dressing room and his way of lengthening in power.

A moment during the interview with Marta Ramon.

Is the darkest part of Bartholomew’s tenure the Barçagate? Or are there worse ones?

– I don’t know if it’s the worst chapter, but it’s the one that sums it all up. It has all the ingredients that define Bartomeu’s management: the parallel circuits hiding information from colleagues, members and the club in general. The fear of what they will say and the control of what they will say, as there is manipulation of the debate and what are the opinion tendencies about what is happening at the club. I am also afraid of the opposition, of criticism, of comments that may come from the same dressing room … When you analyze Barçagate and study the plot, who is being investigated and who has been arrested, you see perfectly what Bartomeu’s hard core is: Jaume Masferrer, Gómez Ponti and Òscar Grau. They operated independently of the rest of the club’s governing body. Barçagate is the most mediated, but the management of Espai Barça … god forbid. It was the great goal of Bartomeu’s term, he considered it to be his great legacy as president and here we are. Irregularities were also committed with Espai Barça. In the book there is a collection of people who worked in this department and explain that the budgets were not calculated well, that financially the right decisions were not made and that the club knew it but looked the other way. He mode of operation del Barçagate, in a way, also moved to Espai Barça.

Source: Ara.cat – Portada by www.ara.cat.

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