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             Barcelona: regeneration  or contagion?                                                                                THE JOURNAL OF SPORT,  LEISURE & RISK  WITH AN INTERNATIONAL PERSPECTIVE             March 2022

            Barcelona:                                                                                                             chairman who really paved the way for            Barcelona would go on. No problems.

            regeneration                                                                                                           the glory years, was knifed in the back          But problems there were. Recruitment
                                                                                                                                   by former friend Sandro Rosell in that
                                                                                                                                   year. Or maybe it was 2012, when Pep
                                                                                                                                                                                    was ham-fisted, as they passed over
                                                                                                                                   Guardiola left, seemingly because he
                                                                                                                                                                                    Erland Haarland and Kylian Mbappe,
            or contagion?                                                                                                          was a central pillar of the old regime.          settling on Oumane Dembele. The
                                                                                                                                   Even then regarded as one of the world’s
                                                                                                                                                                                    Frenchman’s club, Borussia Dortmund,
                                                                                                                                   greatest managers, he has since gone on
                                                                                                                                                                                    knew a mark when they saw one,
                                                                                                                                   to become an icon of coaching genius.            squeezing twice the 80 million Barclona
             Tim Mottram, independent sports journalist                                                                                                                             decided was their top number out of the
                                                                                                                                   Today, the name Josep Maria Bartomeu             Spanish giants. Injuries and poor form
                                                                                                                                   is barely uttered in Catalonia without a         have seen Dembele play sporadically
            For about one hundred years, most developed nations observed a gold standard.                                          curse preceding it. Rosell’s arrest in 2014      since then, and he has become a
            Put simply, the amount of paper money circulating was decided by how much gold                                         paved the way for Bartomeu to take over          scapegoat for the regime. Not wishing
            the country had in their vaults. Economies existed in a clearly defined matrix.
                                                                                                                                   the presidency, and he can best be seen          to change a losing formula, Bartomeu
                                                                                                                                   as the villain of the story. Certainly a fan     splashed another 200 million on Philippe
            But then gold was replaced by what can           Enter Barcelona FC.                                                   of the club, he was not a football man and  Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann. Neither
            only be described as ideas. Potential,                                                                                 perhaps shows best why a massive entity          player would be played in their preferred
            debt, assets…everything got a bit more           There was a time when Barcelona                                       like Barcelona needs to be run responsibly.  position, and both would be gone within a
            marginal and a lot more speculative.             represented something more than                                       American banks pre-2008 were too big             few years at a massive discount.
            Everyone was having a great time, with           football. They dominated the continent                                to fail. Barcelona pre-Bartomau was too
            cheap credit meaning that white goods            for a decade, this unstoppable force of                               blessed to fail.                                 Meanwhile, down at La Mastia, the fabled
            companies and construction boomed.               football genius. For one magical moment                                                                                academy, something was wrong. In the
                                                             everything clicked, and they were the                                 The attacking trio of Leonel Messi, Luiz         middle of the decade, Barcelona put out a
            Then 2008 happened, and since then, the          neutral’s dream team. Flowing football,                               Suarez and Neymar delivered trophies like        team made up entirely of graduates, along
            world economy has been like an out-of-           seemingly unchained to dubious sponsors,                              Vito Corleone delivers horse heads: with         with the coach who was also from the
            control stagecoach in a Western B movie.         superstars seemingly conveyor-belting                                 fatalistic finality. Neymar’s 200-million-       finishing school. Now, the cupboard was
            Sure, there is a driver. He has the reins,       into the first team like something out of                             euro release clause must have appeared           bare. Perhaps these things come in cycles,
            but the horse is half mad and they are           an Isaak Asimov novel. They stood above                               so high that it was mere trivia. Try             but no new players were stepping up. On
            certainly not on the same page about the         every other Super Club, pure and divine.                              telling that to a petrostate. Paris St           the field, things were falling apart.
            direction they wish to go. And if you wish                                                                             Germain came in with an offer, Neymar’s
            to continue the movie metaphor, there is a  Only they weren’t. Drunk on the fantasy                                    immaculately-coiffed head was turned,
            stick of dynamite, lit and sparkling, taped      of destiny, they were due a monster                                   and suddenly Barca seemed
            to the back of the wagon.                        hangover.                                                             rattled. Stars this big don’t
                                                                                                                                   leave Barcelona.
            The problem comes back to an issue far           Like many hangovers, it is hard in the                                                                      Like many hangovers, it
            older than gold standards: the human             harsh light of the following day to                                   Bartomeu and the board
            capacity to believe in dreams.                   pinpoint where it started going wrong.                                probably shrugged and                 is hard in the harsh light
                                                             Perhaps it was 2010. Joan Laporta, the                                turned to the market.                 of the following day to
                                                                                                                                   Everyone is replaceable.
                                                                                                                                                                         pinpoint where it started

                                                                                                                                                                         going wrong. Perhaps it
                                                                                                                                                                         was 2010.

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