Joan Laporta struggled for words when, during a live interview on the UA1 radio station on Monday morning, he was surprised by a report that could safely be labeled as “breaking news” in Spain. And that pushed the actual content of the conversation – the upcoming presidential election at FC Barcelona at the weekend – completely into the background. The report said that officials from the Catalan police had visited the premises of FC Barcelona and shortly afterwards had provisionally arrested various people, including entrepreneur Josep María Bartomeu, who resigned as Barça president in October. He served from 2014 to 2020.
It was “shocking”, said Laporta, who was once Barcelona’s president from 2003 to 2010 and has a good chance of taking office again. “That is not good news, and even if his mandate was not good: We are still talking about an ex-president of Barça …” said Laporta, who brought Bartomeu to his presidium in 2003 but then fell out with him.
The club wants to cooperate with the authorities, but insists on the presumption of innocence
It was initially unclear which allegations Bartomeu are made in detail. Of course, it was certain that they revolved around the affair called “Barçagate”. This is the bizarre, multi-million dollar and presumably overpriced commitment of an Internet company called I3 Ventures. Officially, she was supposed to “monitor” the appearances of FC Barcelona in the social networks and sharpen Bartomeu’s image. However, it turned out that illustrious Bartomeu opponents, club legends like today’s Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola and even current players like Lionel Messi and Gerard Piqué were victims of cyber bullying.
Bartomeu assures that he had no knowledge of these machinations – publicly, but also in one-on-one discussions with Messi, who wanted to leave the club last summer, not least because of Bartomeu. Anyway, a group of Barcelona members reported “Barçagate” and accused Bartomeu of infidelity and corruption, among other things. The provisional arrest followed. The same fate suffered managing director Óscar Grau, Romà Gómez Ponti, the head of the legal department, and Jaume Masferrer, who was head of cabinet under Bartomeu. They were taken to a guard near the stadium. The club, which has been headed by a transitional presidium since Bartomeu’s resignation, assured the authorities “comprehensive cooperation” in clearing up the case. And underlined that the presumption of innocence had to apply.
This was emphasized – in addition to Laporta – by another presidential candidate, Toni Freixá. It is not without reason. In Barcelona it is still very clear that the predecessor and intimate of Bartomeus, Sandro Rosell, was acquitted in a corruption affair in 2019 – “in case of doubt for the accused”, it was said after a barbarically long pre-trial detention. It lasted 643 days.
Of course, it is not said that Bartomeu flourishes like this. In any case, his tenure in office is under a microscopic eye – especially since Barça are plagued by liabilities over the billion mark. A few days ago the radio station revealed SER string an amazing deal that came about under Bartomeu’s mandate, the signing of a Brazilian footballer named Malcom, who now plays for Zenit St. Petersburg. His transfer of 41 million euros to Girondins Bordeaux was steep; Now it turned out that a player agent got a hefty commission for the transfer: ten million euros.