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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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