Barcelona crisis: Bartomeu may quit if the Camp Nou speaks
The Barcelona president is under extreme pressure as an institutional crisis unfolds and his future is in the hands of Napoli, Real Madrid and the club's fans.
Josep Maria Bartomeu has never before experienced such a revolt during his tenure as president of Barcelona. Revelations that Bartomeu expensively hired social media company I3 Venture to carry out a campaign against some of the club’s star players, including Leo Messi and Gerard Piqué, while also polishing his own public image and those of his fellow board members are the latest in a string of issues that have undermined Barça’s season on and off the pitch.
The social media scandal, which has not gone down well with the playing staff, comes hot on the heels of a series of institutional blunders from the failure to sign Neymar last summer to squad planning for this season that has left Quique Setién with just 16 senior players, to the sacking of Ernesto Valverde when Barça were top of the league and the very public argument between Messi and club executive Éric Abidal, who accused some players of not giving their all under the former manager. It has been a quite extraordinary few months for the reigning Liga champions and a series of uncomfortable meetings now awaits Bartomeu in the coming days.
The Barça president has every intention of hanging on to his seat until the next club elections, scheduled for June 2021, but a series of events could lead him to step down earlier. Setién’s tenure started badly when Barça were knocked off top spot in LaLiga and continued downwards when Athletic knocked his side out of the Copa del Rey at the quarter-final stage.
Bartomeu, not Setién, in the eye of the storm
Now, Setién faces a crucial period, but one that may have more immediate ramifications on the power structure at Camp Nou than the actual business of playing football. The former Betis coach signed on until the end of the 2021-22 season and sacking him seems unlikely whatever unfolds on the pitch during the rest of this campaign. However, defeat to Real Madrid in the Clásico sandwiched by a European reverse against Napoli could hasten Bartomeu’s departure.
The Champions League tie is a worrying prospect: Napoli were the only side to have beaten European champions Liverpool this season until Tuesday, when Atlético did the same, and took four points off Jürgen Klopp’s side in the group stage. Gennaro Gattuso’s side have also knocked Lazio and Inter out of the Coppa Italia and beaten Juventus in the past few weeks.
But ultimately it will fall to the club’s socios to decide Bartomeu’s fate. Few Spanish football executives can survive a concerted pañolada – the waving of white handkerchiefs - from their own stadium. One of Bartomeu’s predecessors, Joan Gaspart, got that particular message and this weekend’s home game against Eibar will be instructive to gauge the mood inside Camp Nou.
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