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Chaos, scandal and anger: Barcelona faces seminal presidential elections
- Updated: March 4, 2021
Few people will envy the man elected to be the new president of FC Barcelona.
The upcoming election — to be held on Sunday, just days after four senior officials were arrested — is arguably the most important in the club’s history and comes at a time of crisis that appears to be deepening by the day.
Historic debts, reported by Spanish newspaper El Mundo to be more than one billion dollars, forced Barcelona into a fire sale of some of the most important figures in its playing squad during the summer transfer window.
The rebuilding of its decimated squad, proven once again in the recent 4-1 hammering against Paris Saint-Germain to be well below the standard of its European rivals, is one of just many headaches facing the incoming president.
Top of the list, however, is the future of club talisman Lionel Messi. The Argentine made public his desire to leave Barcelona last summer and it looks increasingly unlikely he will sign a new contract, meaning the greatest player in the club’s history can walk away for free at the end of the current season.
“Many, many, many millions of debt for Barcelona, the worst financial situation in history,” Catalunya Radio journalist Ernest Macià tells CNN.
“On the pitch, we can discuss it, but it seems evident that when the Champions League arrives, Barcelona again commits a public suicide in front of millions of people, receiving so many goals and making it so difficult even for players like Messi who love the club and probably would like to stay at Barcelona in different circumstances.
“At this point it’s not easy to see Messi here next year, although there are many, many different variables intervening in this equation. So we will see what happens in the end because elections will take place this weekend and this is another variable in this equation, who becomes president.”
Back in February, Barcelona issued a statement to say it “categorically” denied responsibility for the publication of Messi’s $672 million contract in El Mundo.
The contract would make Messi the highest paid athlete in sports history and the club said it would take legal action against the newspaper “for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.”
The leak only served to increase tensions between Messi and the Barcelona hierarchy, which had already been stretched to breaking point after the Argentine aimed a thinly veiled dig at the board in an emotional farewell to former teammate Luis Suarez.
Barcelona’s financial problems have been exacerbated by the club’s move away from promoting players from its famed La Masia academy — which has developed the likes of Messi, Pep Guardiola, Andres Iniesta and Xavi — to the first team, instead choosing to spend vast transfer fees and wages on already established stars.
Barcelona has reportedly spent more than $1 billion on transfer fees since the 2013/14 season and many believe this change is philosophy has eroded the club’s ‘More than a Club’ mantra, which is still painted into the seats of its historic Camp Nou stadium.