The newly elected president has little time to set things straight for the Catalan club that has been bereft of success
While it would’ve been a normal day elsewhere, March 8, 2021 was a busy day in the city of Barcelona and especially in the offices of the club representing the city and for the stakeholders concerned. The day marked the occasion when a new president was elected for the club and it was Joan Laporta, the man who oversaw Barcelona’s transition from a capable club to one that dominated global football between 2003 to 2010.
Laporta is now back for his second tenure as FC Barcelona president and faces a tougher challenge than the first time when he took the mantle at the club. Here we look at five immediate challenges that he faces in his latest tenure as Barcelona president.
5. Revamping the club’s hierarchy
Laporta’s immediate concern would be to restructure the organization and bring back some credibility to the board whose name and reputation was tarnished by the inept management of Laporta’s predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu.
The measures taken by Laporta could include reorganizing personnel across different departments or removing and replacing people across these departments. However fit, Laporta must bring some freshness and new approaches to the club’s management which lies in tatters at the moment.
4. Improving the club’s transfer strategy
The ineptitude of the Bartomeu-led contingent could not be better articulated than their insipid transfer strategy. Since Bartomeu took charge, Barcelona haemorrhaged money on buying players for minimal value while selling prized assets like Neymar, Ivan Rakitic, Luis Suarez to rival clubs and potential youth players like Marc Cucurella, Munir El Haddadi, and Sergi Samper among many others for minuscule sums.
They utilized the time to make wacky bids for Kevin Prince Boateng and Paulinho while splurging on Ousmane Dembele (€135 million), Antoine Griezmann (€120 million) and Philippe Coutinho (€160 million) who have simply not been up to the mark that their astronomical sum demanded. In Bartomeu’s tenure, Barcelona spent a total of €1.1 billion on players while generating only €729 million in sales.
Hence, Joan Laporta will be tasked with making a foolproof plan for the club’s transfer strategy starting with fixing their defensive department. With an ageing squad, Barcelona have to plan for a future without veterans like Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba and of course Lionel Messi. Hence, adequate contingencies are to be made across all departments.
3. Reinstating the effect of La Masia
In Laporta previous regime, a plethora of players made their entry into the first team from the club’s famed La Masia academy. Players like Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique among many others made their entry into the limelight from the academy and La Masia has a rich tradition of producing great talents that have shone for Barcelona and elsewhere.
But over the last few years, the academy has barely been used with players finding it tough to make it to the first team. The lure of big-money moves has also meant that plenty of prospects from the academy have already moved to affluent clubs across Europe. Barcelona’s success over the years has been through their ethos of grooming their philosophy of tiki-taka football from their academy.
Despite the dried up state, talents like Riqui Puig, Ansu Fati, and Eric Garcia give hope that Barcelona can continue to find and unearth more gems from their own backyard rather than look elsewhere, a habit championed by their current president in his previous tenure.
2. Fix the club’s wage bill
The massive transfers made by Barcelona meant that it also had to come with hefty pay packets. The result has been financial turmoil that the club has been facing. This has been further exacerbated during the pandemic period where the club is teetering on the cusp of bankruptcy.
FC Barcelona is the highest-paid sports team in the world with the total wage bill of the squad amounting to €217.6 million, not to mention the absurd bonus payments that are slated for players. Hence, a major chunk of Laporta’s work would include keeping the wage bill under check and making enough to keep the squad and the club financially sustainable.
Opinions differ on the fact that the players have agreed to pay cuts owing to the financial strain posed by the pandemic but nonetheless, Joan Laporta must bring the wage bill to a more reasonable figure if they are to use surplus money to handle the current financial strains and also remain profitable in the future.
1. Convince Lionel Messi to stay
While all the suitors pledged many different things to improve at the club, a centerpiece of the manifesto of every candidate was one thing, convince Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona. Every single suitor had it on their agenda.
It all transpired from the interview ahead of the current season where the legendary Argentine dropped a bombshell by stating that he had requested to leave the club at the beginning of the previous season. The eventual saga that ensued between Messi and the club at the start of the season has been well-documented with the club willing to take the player to court over certain clauses in his contract that allowed Messi to leave on a premature agreement for a free.
Messi eventually decided to stay much to his chagrin. But the air of disgruntlement has only grown among the player, fans, and experts alike who thought it as the time for the lifelong Barcelona player to move elsewhere to see out his career. Messi still has suitors going after him and the end of the season is sure to see his transfer saga continue. But for Laporta, the main purpose of his first few months as Barcelona president would be to commit the record Ballon d’ Or winner to his new project at Barcelona.
For a player who was introduced to world football during Laporta’s first reign, it would be the ideal homecoming for Laporta if he can convince Messi to see out his final years with the only club that Messi has turned out for his entire life.