At the end of yet another tumultuous week in the life of FC Barcelona, some semblance of unity and balance will hopefully now be restored with the announcement that Joan Laporta has become the new president of the club, writes Jason Pettigrove.
In truth, the result was a foregone conclusion once Laporta, president between 2003-2010 of course, announced his candidacy. His rivals all knew it too, and though he was much later than them in announcing he would run, in hindsight that was probably deliberate too.
Victor Font, who finished second in the voting ahead of Toni Freixa, deserves great credit for the way in which he ran his own campaign, and given that the first murmurings from his Si Al Futur campaign came a couple of years back, he’ll be hugely disappointed that he did everything possible, but it still wasn’t enough.
Unfortunately for him, despite some of his ideas being forward-thinking and making wonderful use of the digital sphere, many of Barcelona’s members are of the older generation, and things like electronic voting, which Font had attempted to pioneer at the club, is a little too avant garde for many.
Laporta will have to think carefully moving forward because for all their recent successes on the pitch, the club need a heck of an upgrade off it.
The new ground and the Espai Barça project should’ve been finished by now, but thanks to the appalling presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu, it’s really anyone’s guess when Camp Nou and its surroundings will be updated.
I hope Laporta rethinks the Espai Barça project and works together with the team of Bofill to create a stadium which represents the club and city! https://t.co/IQl9aYugkY
— Raphi (@BCN_Raphi) March 7, 2021
That’s one of many areas to be looked at, though the one that will be concerning the Barça faithful the most will be the future of Lionel Messi.
Captain, leader, legend, the Argentinian was as close as he’s ever come to leaving the club last year. As we found out in an interview aired afterwards, the main thrust of his discontent was Bartomeu.
With the latter now well out of the picture and perhaps even facing jail for alleged money laundering and corruption, Laporta has a fighting chance of keeping hold of Messi.
Clearly, the player will need to accept a reduction in salary to stay at Barça, though money isn’t thought to be his motivation. If Laporta can convince him that the team that will be in place at the beginning of next season will be one capable of challenging for titles, the likelihood is that Messi will stay put.
We’ve already seen that having the likes of Ansu Fati, Pedri and Ilaix Moriba beside him in the first team has brought him joy, and just as Ronaldinho was a father figure to him when he broke into the Barça senior side as a youngster, Messi may enjoy a similar role with players he clearly admires.
Of the three presidential candidates, Laporta’s relationship with Messi is closer than the player has with the other two, and importantly, there is trust banked from Laporta’s previous time at the helm.
❗Joan Laporta: "Messi congratulated me. I believe he wants to stay." pic.twitter.com/eT78dFoelE
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 9, 2021
However, there’s no denying that persuading him will be an uphill struggle.
Pep Guardiola has always said he wants Messi to stay at Barça, though he will understand that with La Pulga in his side, Manchester City will arguably make the leap to becoming Champions League winners.
With 22 wins in a row (29 unbeaten) before Sunday’s defeat to rivals Man United, the lure of the blue half of Manchester is obvious.
Every world-class player would thrive next to Messi as would he in return, and his hire would be the icing on the cake for the club. A reunion with Pep for his final couple of seasons in Europe has obvious cachet for the player too.
Messi 🥰 Guardiola
Ronaldo 🥰 Zidane
Which was the best player-coach partnership? 🤝 pic.twitter.com/MCox3dEyeF
— Goal (@goal) February 22, 2021
There’s only one other potential destination and that’s Paris Saint-Germain.
After already losing Neymar to the French club, you can bet your life that Barça will do everything possible to stop Messi going there too, but with money no object and the chance to rekindle a partnership with the Brazilian, PSG have more than a puncher’s chance.
Their only issue is that Kylian Mbappe would surely have to make way in order to accommodate Messi as there’s no way on this earth PSG would be able to secure all three in their front line and be able to end up on the right side of FFP, something they’ve fallen foul of before now.
For his part, Messi has already indicated on several occasions that he will make his decision at the end of the current campaign, when he will have more of an idea of where Barça are at as an organisation and whether it’s worth his while to see out his time at Camp Nou.
Watch this space…