Even the greatest of love affairs will hit something of a rough patch…nothing lasts forever apparently. Over the past two decades Pep Guardiola has evolved into a hero type figure, especially in Barcelona. While La Blaugrana’s famed talent academy La Masia has produced some wonderful footballers over the last few years, most notably a certain Argentine, the name credited with being its first success story is said Guardiola.
Molded by fellow Blaugrana legend Johan Cruyff into a world-class player during the glorious days of Barcelona’s dream team, Guardiola developed into an elite manager of his own, at Barcelona no less. He more than anyone else is symbolic for all Barcelona stand for. He’s Catalan, a La Masia graduate, articulate, charismatic and more importantly wildly successful. Barcelona is ingrained in his DNA. Yet the latest tensions between Guardiola and the club where he first rose to prominence, both as a player and manager, suggest the current state of affairs is far from desirable.
In a press conference the usually mild-mannered Guardiola insinuated the Sandro Rosell-led Barcelona administration tried to portray him in an unflattering light amongst other things.
“I told them [the president and his directors] I was going 6,000km away and asked them to leave me in peace, but they haven’t kept their word”
“I will never forget that they used Tito’s illness to cause me damage, because it’s a lie that I never saw him in New York.
“I saw him once, and the reason I didn’t see him more often was because it wasn’t possible, and that wasn’t my fault. To say that I don’t wish the best of someone who was my colleague for so many years is very bad taste, and I didn’t expect that.”
“If any of the things I’ve said is not true, come out and rebut it, but it has to be them [Rosell and the board], not intermediaries or Barcelona messengers. Them.”
These are some harsh words directed at Barcelona’s administration. La Blaugrana’s upper management is currently experiencing a public relations nightmare on all fronts not even the signing of Brazilian superstar Neymar can put to rest. Speaking of the Barcelona’s new Boy Wonder, evidently La Blaugrana only paid Santos FC €17 million whereas the bulk of the €57 million transfer fee, some €40 million went to various third parties, among them Neymar’s father and the player himself.
One has to search long and hard to find a precedent where the signing-on fee (the €40 million) exceeded the value of the actual transfer by over 200%. The only sport that offers signing-on fees is American Football, and that’s only made possible because there’s a transfer fee involved.
At this point, in the case of Neymar, Sandro Rosell’s business practices are sketchy at best and dubious at worst. The non-disclosure agreement which binds all parties involved leaves room for speculation that there’s something the public isn’t allowed to learn or rather find out.
During the latter years of Joan Laporta’s presidency his former running-mate, the current Barcelona President, Rosell, emerged as his fiercest critic, frequently questioning Laporta’s authoritarian management-style. On current account it’s hard to differentiate the two. If Laporta was considered authoritarian, so is Rosell. Perhaps the latter is even more infatuated with the control over Barcelona than his predecessor ever was.
One Rosell’s first acts as Barcelona’ President was to humiliate club icon, and probably the single most important individual in the history of La Blaugrana, Johan Cruyff, by stripping him of his honorary Presidency – which he justified on the grounds that the general assembly neither formally nominated nor confirmed any proposal of such nature. It probably didn’t help that Cruyff was given the honorary presidency by Laporta, Rosell’s, ehem, rival.
Furthermore, Rosell also changed the framework to become a Socio, an official member of the club. He all but ensured that fans who don’t live in Catalunya cannot become members (for further information click here), under the pretext of protecting Barcelona’s identity. A cynic would imply that Rosell is securing his powerbase, thus his mandate beyond his current term.
Funnily enough, protecting Barcelona’s decidedly Catalan identity didn’t prevent La Blaugrana’s management from seeking Qatari money so secure the cash-flow of the club. In the process Rosell’s administration closed a deal with the Qatar Foundation to become the first shirt sponsor in the history of Barcelona. Interestingly, that’s one of the quite few instances where Sandro Rosell acted unilaterally without waiting for an agreement from the general assembly.
It’s also worth noting that fans were informed afterwards that the Qatari’s had the option the switch the Logo from Qatar Foundation to Qatar Airways – once again highlighting Sandro Rosell penchant for murky business practices.
Thus far Rosell’s actions as President have been in stark contrast to the image the club has been cultivating in the year prior to his election in 2010.
- He has alienated the large fanbase Barcelona has outside of Catalunya, which is probably the majority,
- publicly humiliated the single most important figure in the history of the club (Johan Cruyff)
- Did the one thing none of his predecessors dared to do – acquired a shirt sponsor
- Redirected the better part of the €57 million ‘transfer fee’ directly into the coffers of Neymar and his father
- Strained the relationship to one of Barcelona’s favorite sons (Pep Guardiola)
These are just the highlights midway through Sandro Rosell’s first term as Barcelona’s President. Given his talent to turn once blossoming and important relationships into hostility it’ll be quite interesting to see how the remaining 3 years of his tenure turn out.