Part of the mystique of FC Barcelona has been its claim to be more than a football club “Més que un club“, of the back of this ideology the club has grown to become one of the biggest clubs on the football scene and the poster child of UEFA and FIFA’s notion of what a club should be in terms of image, playing style and operations. This has also resulted in the general perception that FC Barcelona can do no wrong amongst the public and if you were to ever voice out anything to the contrary, like I did on several occasions, you were guaranteed that you would be labelled anything from a hater to the devil himself. This position of power and adoration, along with the wealth and accolades, was how FC Barcelona was supposed to stay for the foreseeable but let’s just say things have not gone according to plan.
The first clearly visible sign that something was wrong was the destruction of the team on the playing field by Bayern Munich FC in the 2012-13 edition of the Champions League. The fact that they lost was not the surprise after all in sport even the greatest teams lose at some point but it was the nature in which they lost that was surprising. Far from the Barcelona team that had conquered all before them for the better part of more than half a decade, over the two legs of the encounter we saw a team lost and devoid of ideas. Gone was the indomitable FC Barcelona the gods of the footballing world in their place stood mere mortals to face a far superior and messi-less (that’s a play on world’s) German behemoth. Suddenly the decline that some of us had been talking about since the last season of Pep’s tenure as coach of FC Barcelona was all too real for the fans of Barcelona and the talk of the end of an era was no longer taboo, you could now discuss it without as much backlash as before. Yet they still hoped that it was a once off in fact the players were defiant in the face such arguments after all they pointed to the fact that they had won the La Liga title once again plus they still had arguably the best player in the world on their team plus his usual supporting cast staying put as well as the eminent arrival of Neymar one of the most exciting young talents in the game to bolster their squad surely they would ascend again to the top of the footballing world in no time flat. The fruitless 2013-14 footballing season has proven that those of us who aired on side of pessimism and called for a refreshing of the squad and changing of style might be onto something because have fallen further down the totem pole, but what was to be accepted when the club didn’t deal with key areas and rather succumbed to vanity buys. To add on to that they like the proverbial boxer who doesn’t know when to hang up his gloves have refused to get rid of stalwarts like Xavi who are no longer the forces they were once as well as overrated players like Gerrad Pique who got away with playing in a system that hid their flaws.
The downturn in fortunes on the pitch has also come with a battering of their public image. The transfer surrounding Neymar to the club has been probably their biggest P.R disaster with questions surrounding fee and ethical issues around that deal. So bad has been the backlash the man behind the move the president of FC Barcelona had to step down from his post and the club subsequently paid the outstanding tax bill even though they still maintain that they have done no wrong. In fact the board have shown gone as far as coming up with conspiracy theories that leave one with that disbelieving look as you are astounded by the sheer paranoia that is being exhibited and the lengths people would go just to avoid admitting that they messed up. Their star player Lionel Messi has also seen his squeaky clean image take a licking starting with his own tax case which despite denials of wrong doing he also paid his tax bill to have his case go away and on the field he has to field questions about his desire to play for the club and for his teammates, let’s not even go into his supposed role in the appointment of Tata as coach and questions about his charity matches and his lack of presence in some of them. We now see the Messi who was talked about in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s biography; a player just like any other, vain, arrogant and selfish not the goody two shoes we have been force fed by every footballing body and media house he is associated with.
The club is also fielding questions on its recruitment policy of young players; with FIFA accusing them of breaking the rules. In response the club simply stated that the particular law in question should not be applicable to them because their la masia has been put as the bar of what youth development should be like. The club has plundered the youth ranks of other Spanish clubs and then gone on to try to sell us the idea that they are a product of the Barcelona youth system so much for doing the right thing for the sport and competition as a whole, it’s about number one just like any other club. And as for the number of those that actually make it the first team the average is just as low as any other club, you just need to look at the amounts they spend on transfers which is as high as those clubs those clubs such as Chelsea, Man City and PSG who are accused of buying success and not keeping with the spirit of the game.
In terms of the future it seems vanity is still top of the list at the club with plans of unnecessary redevelopments to their home stadium. The club will continue looting smaller clubs for the cream of their young talent and carving the riches of la liga with Real Madrid to the detriment of the competition. In light of these things surrounding the club can we truly same FC Barcelona are more than a club??
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