BEVERLY HILLS, March 07, (THEWILL) – The day of deciding the path forward for La Liga giants Barcelona has come as the election of club president gets underway in the Catalan club. Details of issues such as the future of talismanic Argentine Lionel Messi could soon be resolved for him to stay or leave based on which of the candidates emerges at the end of the voting process.
Apart from the determination of the club’s strained relationship with the superstar, several crucial decisions about significant issues for La Blaugrana like their financial outlook which had been under intense strain from the adjustments made for football under the coronavirus pandemic, hinge on the outcome of these elections.
Whichever of the candidates emerges, he will take the position vacated in October by the disgraced Spanish entrepreneur Josep Maria Bartomeu, who left the position reluctantly after it began clear that he was facing a clear Vote of No Confidence the next month. He, together with his closest confidants while as President of the club, were arrested last week in a corruption investigation by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force.
After the infamous resignation of the Board Bartomeu headed, Carlos Tusquets took interim charge of the club for administrative purposes and began the process for the elections taking place today and for which he is not taking part.
Nor long after he took office, Tusquets found himself in hot waters when he was forced to defend comments he made about Messi’s future at the club. The 69-year-old has suggested that he would have sold Messi in the previous summer transfer window because the club would have been better off with the star player off their books.
Faced with reactions from within and outside the club, he quickly moved to clarify his comments, claiming he meant the club would have been in a better position financially had they sold the Argentina international, as he adamantly stood by the facts of his stance that the club would be “better off” financially had the Argentinian superstar left.
One of those who did not receive the comments well within the Barcelona camp was manager Ronald Koeman. The coach claimed that such remarks “don’t help us [Barcelona] to have peace of mind”.
In the elections for the individual who will assume full responsibilities as President and relieve Tusquets of his interim position, Joan Laporta, who previously assumed the role between 2003 and 2010, is the favourite to win.
One of the many reasons why is that the 58-year-old has a warm and cordial relationship with Messi and could be crucial in persuading him to sign a new contract and see out his career at Camp Nou. He has even gone as far as boasting that the Argentine will go if he loses.
Another plan of his in his bid to win is his promise to unite Messi with his countryman, the Manchester City legendary goal scorer, Sergio Aguero, so that just like in the national team, they can play alongside each other.
The former boss remains the frontrunner to get a new term at the helm and plans on developing an improved Camp Nou by raising its capacity to 105,000 in four year’s time.
But, Laporta faces competition from candidates such as Victor Font, a 48-year-old CEO. Font is a telecommunication, media and technology entrepreneur. He is a co-founder and CEO at Delta Partners. He is also a Board member of the firm.
Font has not shied away from declaring his intention to relieve current Barca manager Ronald Koeman of his duties and and replace him with club legend Xavi under his “Si al futur” (“Yes to the Future”) project for the Catalan club.
He was quoted as saying, in January: “Even if Koeman has a great season, I will not change my plans. If I become president, Koeman will not be the coach of Barca in the 2021-22 season.
“Who will lead the team will be decided by the board of directors – in our case it will be Xavi.”
This project aims to build a new Barca by 2030 when the greatest generation including Messi and Co is no longer on the pitch. The project claims that to be able to compete after this golden generation, Barca must be revamped from the core so it can face all the economic, social, and sporting challenges in the future.
The last candidate is Toni Freixa, a 52-year-old lawyer. Freixa was part of Sandro Rosell’s board as spokesperson and secretary in 2010. In the 2016 election that Bartomeu won, he contested alongside but finished fourth.
His campaign slogan reads, “Fidels al Barça” or “Loyal to Barça” with focus on giving the people supporting the club more reasons to do so. However, it appears many people see him as a continuation of the past that Barca is trying to extricate itself from. It is a tag he has consistently rejected but it still remains how Freixa continues to be perceived.
Additionally, the candidate has been highly critical of Messi and lambasted the player’s transfer request during the transfer window.
“I am not overly concerned about Messi leaving because everything has an end. What is important is that he did it in such an unfortunate way and without respecting the club,” Freixa reportedly said in August last year.
Messi again was targeted when the 52-year-old said in November that the Argentine will have to take a pay cut if he is to stay at Barcelona. This stance is hardly an incentive with mega-rich rivals, such as PSG and Manchester City, rumoured to be interested in snapping the magician off of the uncertain hands of Barcelona.
The results of the eagerly awaited election are due to be known at 12:30am GMT.