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FC Barcelona: Why Xavi And Laporta Will Have Fewer Excuses

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at October 30, 2021

It turned out the limit of FC Barcelona’s patience was not defeat in El Clasico to Real Madrid.

The midweek loss to Rayo Vallecano, courtesy of a solitary Radamel Falcao goal, was the tipping point.

After that club legend turned maligned manager Ronald Koeman was asked to clear his desk.

The new coach is expected to be another iconic Barcelona midfielder, Xavi Hernandez, a man with little pedigree at the highest level of the game, but an intimate knowledge of the club’s ‘DNA.’

You have to feel sorry for Koeman, the Dutchman has been a dead man walking for some time now, with the season only months old it had become a question of when rather than if he would be sacked.

It’s little surprise Koeman has failed, he was operating in the most difficult conditions any Barcelona coach in the past 20 years has had.

Years of financial mismanagement, bad investments and declining standards all came to a head during his tenure.

And it wasn’t like Barcelona was in a good place when he joined. 

The Dutchman arrived it was at a club being described by long time servant Gerard Pique as being at “rock bottom” following the humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

“The club needs changes on a structural level,” was Pique’s withering assessment. “If new blood needs to come for the club to change course then I’m not untouchable and I’ll be the first to leave if needs be.”

If Koeman thought he would be able to spearhead a refresh of Barcelona he was wrong.

The first challenge the Dutchman had to contend with was persuading the club’s best player and legendary captain Lionel Messi to stay. The saga dominated the summer preceding his first campaign.

In addition to this once in a generation scenario were a host of bitter political battles all over the place.

Fans were trying to oust then-club president Josep Bartomeu earlier than planned and there were disputes with players over wage deferrals and potential sales.

Bartomeu eventually departed in October with Messi still at the club, but with the perilous financial situation no better.

Koeman earnestly forged ahead but Barcelona’s form was patchy and the discontent remained.

When new president Joan Laporta was elected, he made no secret of the fact that the Dutchman was not to his liking.

“I told Koeman that you are not my favourite coach,” Laporta said in April 

“Give me time to find an alternative and if I don’t find one – you can continue.”  

Laporta was not able to find a replacement because Koeman began the season as Barcelona’s manager.

The time to dump

Whenever there is a change in leadership at a time of crisis there is always a period of grace when the new management can use the old regime as an excuse for any failures.

Whether it is a new political leader criticising the state the previous official left things in or a CEO complaining about the unseen disasters hidden by the last incumbent, blame a useful tactic to have up your sleeve.

Laporta has been handed extra ammunition, not that it was particularly needed, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The virus meant that even before the huge debt and bad investments came into play, like almost every other club in world soccer Barcelona’s 2020-21 accounts were likely to be some of the worst ever posted. 

COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to the sporting calendar and removal of fans from stadiums has blown massive holes in soccer club revenues.

But even in normal times, the first set of accounts a new regime presides over tends to be used as the opportunity to dump any losses that might affect future financial results.

If you can see a potential hit coming down the road, this is the time to make an accounting provision.

The suggestion, amongst some, is that Laporta has maximised this opportunity.

Player book value has been slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars and large provisions have been made for future losses in legal cases.

This means even modest player sales in the future will make for better reading in the next accounts, should the club avoid a payout in the courts it will also give it a boost.

Supporters of previous presidential regimes even complained to The Athletic about the write-downs and provisions.

“They have increased the losses so that they can throw everything bad at the previous board,” the outlet quoted a former director at the club as saying.

FC Barcelona’s fall guy

Koeman was of course another remnant of that old regime, one which Laporta was quite open about not being enamoured with.

But, with the departure of Messi in the summer, the president might well have realised that worse was to come.

Bringing in Xavi to a team still on a downward trajectory might well have eroded the goodwill the tipped replacement has with supporters.

Instead, Koeman has plunged Barcelona to the lowest ebb of the past two decades, you would think from a playing perspective the only way is up.

But there is still a risk, albeit a different one. 

Using the mistakes of predecessors as an explanation for fresh failure will not cut it to the same extent.

If this is true ‘rock bottom’ Xavi and Laporta can begin to build the new Barcelona together.

However, if it’s not and they falter or fall they’ll be less protection from the past.

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