Lolita, Neymar and Barçagate
Monday's image of the Catalan police entering the Camp Nou offices to conduct searches while arresting Josep Maria Bartomeu and three senior officials - Oscar Grau, Jaume Masferrer and Roman Gomez Ponti - over the so-called Barçagate scandal is the culmination of a decade of infamy for Barça at an institutional level. It all started with the liability action against the previous board. Then came the conviction for two tax crimes in the signing of Neymar. A sentence, let's remember, that served to remove the top leaders from the equation and find the institution guilty. And finally, without going into the rest of the shameful situations experienced in recent years, this latest episode for alleged crimes of misuse of funds and corruption.
Both in the first and in the third case a same pattern is repeated: using Barça to attack a rival. Or rather, to attack a Barça fan who is a rival, who doesn't think like you do. In 2010, wrapping it up with cigar bills and roast chickens from Lolita's rotisserie, the club's machinery was used - "The law forced us", they still say - to go against Laporta's board and give a horrible time to innocent people who found themselves in the middle. In 2020 exorbitant prices were paid -for work that was not completed- to discredit opposition figures like Víctor Font, Laporta himself, players like Piqué or Messi or even journalists. They thought Barça was theirs and with their management they have managed to put the Barça brand at risk.
The Barçagate case hurts especially because of the lies told by the club's executives to cover it up. And it hurts, above all, because they were able to do it to me. I didn't have the determination of my colleagues at Cadena SER - Sique Rodríguez, Adrià Soldevila and Sergi Escudero - who went all the way to uncover the case. On July 2, 2019, we published an ARA report on I3Ventures including the €200,000 invoices, Masferrer's trips to Argentina, who Carlos Ibáñez was and the attempts to pass through the Hong Kong office an unjustified invoice. Masferrer and Grau, arrested on Monday, lied for an hour and a half on this issue. I did not have enough evidence -SER ended up enearthing it - and we ended up publishing an article in which everything was diluted. Luckily, however, the three colleagues did their job well, got the necessary material and ended up uncovering a case that has marked the agenda of Barça over the past year and that directly questions members before Sunday's elections.