It’s 2009. You turn on the TV and you see 11 men, dressed in garnet and blue, absolute annihilate their opponent. You’re getting goosebumps just watching it. You could be a rival fan or even someone who’s not particularly a huge fan of the sport. But yet, you would always find yourself thinking, It surely cannot be that easy. Except that it actually was. The legendary sextuple winning Barcelona side of 2009 was the culmination of the actions done by Joan Laporta and his board. After years of taking bold decisions and insisting on adhering by the footballing principles of Johan Cruyff, creating a monster.
Laporta’s legacy was set in stone and he became a household name for the Blaugranas. This legacy of his set the tide in his favour during the Barcelona presidential elections held earlier this year. Laporta dominated the elections and won a clear majority. But, only months after taking up office, a large portion of the fanbase has already given up on him and he is facing heavy criticism.
The Messi Fiasco:
Let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room. Yes, Joan Laporta is the president who let Messi go. A line that I never thought would have to write. And yet, its baffling to see an entire fanbase, turn against this man, even though Laporta’s hands were practically tied during this affair. It is important to look at this affair step by step, in order to fully understand it. Messi and Laporta’s relationship has always been great.
Messi had his breakthrough at Barcelona under Joan Laporta and Laporta always backed Messi and made decisions to facilitate him. After the 2020 Messi Burofax saga, where he famously asked to leave Barcelona, hopes on securing his renewal before the expiration of his contract in July 2021 were low. Yet, Joan Laporta managed to convince Messi to stay, only weeks after coming to office. Now, to bust a few myths here.
A large portion of the Anti-Laporta fans claim that Laporta “exploited” the fanbase during the election campaign by promising to keep Messi. Yet, Joan Laporta never “promised” to keep Messi, not during the elections and not after taking up office. Laporta of course, like all the other candidates, expressed his desire to renew Messi’s contract and always insisted that he would try his best. Even during the days where Messi’s renewal was 100% agreed, Joan did not guarantee anything.
The actual reasons for Messi’s departure were out of Laporta’s control. The disastrous reign of Josep Maria Bartemou left Barcelona economically handicapped and in heavy debt. With La Liga’s wage cap installed recently, Barcelona were hence unable to meet La Liga’s requirements and hence could not register Messi in the squad for the upcoming La Liga. One should never question Messi’s love for Barcelona and he was willing to give up a huge chunk of his salary to stay at the club.
Is it even possible?
However, as per Spanish law, a player cannot have more than 50% of his salary cut down in a single year. With Messi cutting down his salary to 50%, it was still more than the wage budget that La Liga allowed Barcelona. An alternate solution was to accept the CVC deal put forward by La Liga. But that meant that the club would have to sell a portion of their TV rights for the next 50 years. In return, the club would receive a set amount of money in return. Joan Laporta and his board felt that this deal would be harmful for the club. So they refused to accept it.
In return, Javier Tebas, the La Liga President, refused to show the club flexibility in the wage cap in order to keep Messi. It was a standoff between the club and league. In the end, neither backed down, which meant that Messi could no longer continue at the club. The board insisted that they could not damage the club for the next 50 years just to keep Messi for a few more years. Whilst the situation could have been handled a little better, there was still not much the board could do in this scenario except bid farewell to the Argentine. Despite some reports suggesting otherwise, Messi understood why the club had to do this and the relationship between Laporta and Messi still remains that of mutual respect.
Failure to get rid of the Deadwood:
After the arrival of Joan, many fans hoped that we would be able to propel ourselves into a new era. And for that to happen, the club would have have to get rid of some of the players, who were holding the team back. There was actually quite an effort done throughout the summer to achieve this. Whilst the board was unlucky in the case of club record signing Phillipe Coutinho, who was recovering from long term injury and could not be sold, other players like Umtiti were pushed towards the exit door.
In the case of the Frenchman, every thing was tried. The club first brought him decent proposals from other clubs, which he did not accept. Barcelona offered him to go on loan, something he also refused. The club even offered him to unilaterally terminate his contract, freeing him to go wherever he wanted. This was also not accepted. The club tried extreme measures and have completely frozen him out of the fist team dynamics for now. Therefore, he’s yet to play a single minute for us this season. Legally, there is not many other actions the club can take here, without facing sanctions from FIFA. The blame rather, should go to the previous board, who signed him to that contract.
Laporta was successful to some extent in this area still, getting rid of Antoine Griezmann and getting a huge fee for him, as well as offloading contract rebel Ilaix Moriba and new signing Miralem Pjanic, who barely played last season.
The Continuity of Ronald Koeman:
Another thing that’s causing a massive outrage amongst the cules is the continuity of Ronald Koeman as first team coach. Whilst Koeman deserves Plaudits for his work last season, where he garnered decent results and took a punt at Pedri which led to nothing but good. But it was clear that he was not a suitable coach for Barcelona in the long term. That is why, only months after his appointment as president, Laporta decided to get rid Ronald Koeman, in the summer.
However, he had no other choice but to let Koeman continue. The financial state of the club meant that we couldn’t even afford to pay to get rid of the Dutchman. Fast forward to October 2021. Barcelona are on the verge of being eliminated in the Champions League Group Stage. After humiliations against Benfica and Bayern, whilst also being poor in the league. But the worst part of all this is that the team is playing without identity. This made it almost certain that Koeman would be sacked after the Benfica game. Yet, almost 2 weeks after that, Koeman is still manager. Whilst the board does deserve criticism here, there were other factors too.
There was no consensus in the board about who should the next manager be, with executives proposing different candidates. The club also believes that in the upcoming summer, better managerial options would be available than currently. So, instead of appointing an interim manager, the club decided to continue with Koeman for now.
In conclusion, I believe that Joan Laporta and his board is getting more criticism than they deserve. Most of their decisions are forced by the circumstances. It will take more than a few months to clean up the mess left by the previous board. I think it is important that the fans should give Laporta time. He already took us to the top before, whilst also reviewing the decisions rationally and try to think from the Board’s point of view. Visca El Barca.