And then there were four.
With the Barcelona presidential elections in less than two weeks, the pool of candidates has been reduced from nine to four names: Joan laporta, Victor Font, Toni Freixa and Emili rousaud.
In the midst of a pandemic, with debts running into the hundreds of millions and the club’s best player about to leave for free… who are the four men looking to face arguably the toughest gig in football in this moment?
Slogan: Estimem el Barça (We love Barça)
Key selling points: previous success, relationship with Messi and La Masia
Laporta appears as the big favorite ahead of the vote, having presented 10,257 signatures from Barça socios (members) to qualify for the presidential race. The mandatory minimum was 2,257, while no other candidate received more than 5,000.
Laporta – a brash character with a history in Catalan politics – is an easy sell for most Barca fans. He knows the club and, in fact, has presided over much of the recent success, having been president between 2003 and 2010 – a period in which the club won four La Liga titles, two in the Champions League and the Copa del Rey.
His candidacy is also reminiscent of an era of self-sufficiency, where La Masia and Cruyff’s ingrained DNA could produce all the superstars the club could ever need.
He has promised an overhaul of Barca’s famous academy if elected – even co-opting Liverpool’s motto ‘you will never walk alone’.
However, this perception of a purist primarily academic might be a bit offbeat and he is also known to have close ties to “super-agents” like Mino Raiola. Laporta once staked his 2003 campaign on signing David Beckham’s marquee – which of course did not happen.
Not afraid of a publicity stunt, he made headlines in December with a high profile banner next to the “I can’t wait to see you” message next to the Bernabeu.
Slogan: Si al Futur (Yes to the Future)
Key selling points: relationship with Xavi, commercial realism
After Laporta, the man with the second most signatures (just over 4,700) is Victor Font, CEO of a long-standing venture capital and Barça socio firm.
At the forefront of Font’s campaign are the names he has lined up to work alongside him, most notably promising Xavi Hernandez will be involved with the club “from day one” if he wins.
A common organizational chart at the end of December showed Xavi as “general manager” while Jordi Cruyff was named “sporting director”. A little, embarrassingly Cruyff – who is currently the head coach of Shenzen FC – quickly downplayed his involvement in the plans.
Font also pledged more roles for women on its board.
He is also a remaining pro Messi at the club and said last month he was “convinced” he can make sure the six-time Ballon d’Or winner remains at Camp Nou. A return from Neymar, however, is not a priority for Font.
Referring to the financial crisis at the club, Font’s campaign website talks about implementing a balancing plan for this season in its first 100 days, before refinancing the piles of debt. during the summer with the ultimate goal of keeping the club in the hands of its members and not turning it into a PLC.
Font also offered to bring back the charity UNICEF as the main sponsor of the club’s jersey.
Slogan: Fidels al Barça (Faithful to Barça)
Key selling points: knows the club, plans to involve fans
A member of the Barcelona board of directors under the last three presidents, Freixa is a lawyer by profession, who finished last in the 2015 elections with just 3.7% of the vote. He’s not disheartened this time around, despite claims his candidacy is more of the same in a system gone bad.
Freixa – who is a regular on Spanish TV when it comes to discussing Barca – insisted he was different from his predecessors, while his website trusted La Masia, as well as the aim to fill Camp Nou every week with increased fan participation. in decision making.
Unlike Laporta, Freixa does not make politician, saying they have no place in football.
He has also been quiet on the hot topic of Messi, but less so on Neymar. Freixa called the Brazilian who left Barca in 2017 “not to be among the 30 best players in Europe”.
He is also committed to keeping manager Ronald Koeman in place for the time being.
Slogan: Els Millors, al Barça! (The best, at Barça!)
Key selling points: professional experience, knows the club
The last and probably the least likely is Rousaud, a former vice-president of Josep Maria Bartomeu who could have been a safer bet if things had not gone so pear shaped under the former leader.
Rousaud resigned in April of last year, after just three months as vice-president, after the infamous “Barçagate” scandal.
A successful businessman with a company with a turnover of hundreds of millions, the economic experience and the experience of the Rousaud club could be considered as assets by some, although some of his speeches of campaign seemed fanciful.
He offered to name the Camp Nou after Messi, while simultaneously suggesting that the Argentinian should accept a pay cut on his “unsustainable” salary.
He’s also pro Neymar’s comeback if the PSG player abandons his trial against Barça.
Like the other candidates, he insisted that La Masia is the key pillar of the future. However, his website also claims that he already has a new technical director (“the best in the world”) in place who, in turn, is in contact with “two global mega stars”.