Super League
Sports 22/04/2021

Laporta's strategic Super League silence

Barça is staying in the competition despite the drop in participants because it hopes to negotiate with UEFA for a new share of the cake

3 min
Laporta, present to watch the Barça handball match

BarcelonaIn order to become Barça president again, Joan Laporta ran a carefully studied campaign with his charisma and oratory skills at the centre of the strategy. The Barcelona lawyer, more mature and prudent than during his first stage in the box of the Camp Nou, granted almost fifty interviews between traditional media (Catalan, Spanish and foreign) and new ways of diffusion (YouTube, Twitch, etc.) to win the support of the partners in the elections and to construct a state of favorable opinion in all the blaugrana forums. In the thematic events of his candidacy, he took the lead and divided the turns of speech between future managers and executives of each specific area. The aspiring Laporta was everywhere and tried to respond to everything that was asked of him, always taking care not to go over the top. In contrast, Laporta the president has not made any public statements for more than five weeks, apart from brief appearances at La Cartuja to celebrate the Copa del Rey. Nor has his voice been heard to offer an official Barça position on the Super League, a competition that still generates sympathy in the Barça offices despite the disbanding of participants in recent days.

At the moment, the "strong leadership" that the president promised in the electoral race is perceived mainly behind closed doors, when it receives Mino Raiola and the father of Erling Haaland, establishes the bases of a negotiation to renew Leo Messi, or goes to the locker room to show proximity and affection to the players and technicians. Behind closed doors, it is Ronald Koeman who continues to be the spokesman for the club (Elena Fort, spokeswoman for the board, has not yet been released with microphones). Thus, in advance of the Liga match against Getafe, the Dutch coach had to answer questions about the earthquake caused by the Super League. Although he admitted that Laporta had informed him about Florentino Pérez's "saviour" project, he opted to tiptoe around the issue and instead devoted his efforts to criticising UEFA, whom he accused of thinking "only about money". However, he did not shy away from aligning himself with the views of Gerard Piqué, who welcomed the escape of English clubs from the Super League, saying that "football belongs more than ever to the fans" and argued that the initiative to close the European competition for the best teams "is not positive in the long term".

The golden cart of Florentino, Agnelli... and Bartomeu

Laporta and the new managers of the Barça have not spoken in public of the Super League, but they do justify in private why they do not resign in spite of the express desertion of 10 of its founders. They continue ahead with the project because, as they explain from the Camp Nou to the ARA, "sportingly it is very attractive and brings more economic resources". The second reason takes special importance because of the delicate financial situation of the club, summarized in 730 million euros of short-term debt, a horizon with more than 300 million in losses and immediate difficulty to pay the salary of players that already accepted a postponement a few months ago. In fact, it has been asked for an advance of the television rights of the course that comes to compensate for the lack of treasury. Taking into account this context, and that the audit that the directive commissioned is not yet closed, the more than 300 million that the external investor of the Super League promised appeared as a decisive solution, as an argument with a lot of weight to dissuade a possible criticism in the assembly. It was worth jumping on the golden bandwagon set in motion by Florentino, Agnelli and Bartomeu, even if the gesture attacked UEFA's principle of authority. Now that the initiative has drowned, Barça accepts the partial defeat, but warns: "We are entering a period of reflection and negotiation". The page will not be turned just because. "The English and the Italians have not abandoned the Super League for free", they say.

Because, as Piqué pointed out in the  Universo Valdano programme, Laporta "has inherited the Barça in very negative economic circumstances". That is why the Culé president, who was the last to sign the project (between Saturday and Sunday) and left it pending the approval of the members, maintains the challenge as a measure to fight for a more profitable revenue management for the most valuable club in the world according to Forbes. A low-profile, small-mouthed challenge that the football world interprets as a textbook offside, but which the Camp Nou hopes will serve to change certain ways of working, in order to continue aspiring to sporting excellence.