Football

Published on August 24th, 2017 | by Paco Polit

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How FC Barcelona become the laughing stock of the football world

Neymar walked off, no-one has come to replace him, the club is being hacked and the stars are in open rebellion. What else can go wrong at Barca?

It never seems to end, right?

FC Barcelona fans are living inside their worst nightmare right now, as their beloved team has become this summer’s most trolled and pushed-around team in Europe and possibly the world. Opposition sides and supporters aren’t pulling punches and have detected a weakness that lay undiscovered for many years.

Most of it can be traced back to Neymar but there were signs for concern much, much earlier. Last season, Barça spectacularly failed to deliver in the signings department: Paco Alcácer, André Gomes, Lucas Digné were all failures, and only Samuel Umtiti managed to become relevant. That translated into a mediocre season with only a Copa del Rey title at the end, while archenemy Real Madrid strolled towards their La Liga and Champions League double.

With plenty of homework to do this summer the Neymar soap opera was enough to distract most of the attention away from another disappointing transfer market. ‘O craque’ and ‘o Pai do craque’ (the star and the star’s father) fled Barcelona into the arms of super-rich PSG, leaving fans in utter shock and the board totally hapless and unable to react.

Josep Maria Bartomeu, Barça’s President, and sports director Robert Fernandez had tried to woo Marco Verrati weeks earlier, unsuccessfully. In turn, PSG’s Nasser Al-Khelaïfi managed to keep the Italian midfielder and, just for kicks, splurge $251 million on the Brazilian striker.

Neymar’s departure was seen in the football world as a major coup inside the business, a swift strike that has made a giant lose its grip and stumble. Since that point on, Barça has been grasping for straws and desperately waving their cash-filled mittens, trying to score some big names in the market (Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembelé) to make up for Neymar’s loss both in sporting and also financial terms (the Brazilian is a two-legged money-printer with plenty of sponsorships and PR behind).

Obviously, to date, they have failed miserably.

With Leo Messi on the sidelines and closely watching how his president and board fail to construct a tangible, proven, solid squad around him, the fact is that the number 10 has agreed to his new and totally bananas contract, with a huge salary upgrade and plenty of upsides… but he hasn’t signed it yet. He will, eventually. It’s just another bullet-point to pile up on the infamous list of screw-ups the current managing staff has amassed this year.

Barça tried signing Coutinho and Liverpool basically told them to turn around and go away. They tried once again days later, and got the same answer. They even resorted to presenting a formal offer ($146 million) with a deadline: 7pm last Sunday. After the time was up and Liverpool said thanks but no thanks yet *again*, professional joker and occasional top manager Jürgen Klopp took to the press room to deliver the final blow to Barça’s brittle morale: “Tomorrow Barça will offer us a Happy Meal for Coutinho, even with the toy inside!”, he cracked.

Things with Dembelé are getting even nastier, as it seems that Barça has pressed the issue quite a lot with the player and has gambled on Dembelé himself exerting some pressure on Borussia Dortmund to let him go. To date, it hasn’t worked, and Barça’s public image has suffered quite a lot for it within Germany. “We sat down with FC Barcelona to talk on a Thursday and the player didn’t came to the training session on Friday. Coincidence? Two weeks ago I saw Barça as a big, respectable side. Now I’m not so sure”, stated Borussia’s CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke.

Adding Paulinho and Semedo to their roster has already cost the Catalan team a cool $80 million. Even if they’re successful closing the deals on Dembelé and Coutinho, we could be talking about some $330 million spent on four players. Utter madness coming from an utterly desperate management who sees how fans are losing faith, their ship is ridden with holes in all directions and Real Madrid just keeps winning and becoming stronger.

The wheels of the opposition have begun to turn. Former candidate Agustín Benedito has stated that he will push forward a vote of no confidence towards the Board in September. Many relevant Barcelonistas, such as former President Joan Laporta, have already said they will support it in order to eject Bartomeu and company out of their seats.

The Barça decision-makers have found resistance even within their own squad. With a legal process ongoing after Neymar’s departure (the club sued the player and pledged the case to FIFA, and Neymar answered with a counterclaim in turn), they couldn’t believe their eyes when last Tuesday the Brazilian himself was spotted in a few of his former team mates’ social media streams. Messi expressed his happiness to spend a free day with his Brazilian friend and Suarez in Barcelona, while Gerard Piqué once again used (to the board’s dismay) the infamous ‘Se Queda’ hashtag to make fun of the situation and make clear that he was having fun with his mate.

While the board tried to demonize a ‘traitor’, his former team mates answered back by standing by him and showing publicly their happiness when he’s around. Unbelievable. And, again, a huge source of laughs for every football fan in social media for many hours.

To top it all, you know you’ve become the world’s laughing stock when even hacking groups see you as a weak party prone to be infiltrated and trolled for a while. And that is what happened last Wednesday, when the OurMine agency took over the club’s Twitter handle and announced Ángel Di Maria’s signing. The announcement was fake, but the cheeky replies and overall hilarity speak volumes about just how low Barça has fallen.

Let’s put it this way: hackers hacked into a club being currently managed by hacks. Irony writes itself.

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About the Author

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Paco Polit is a Valencia-based journalist with over ten years experience reporting La Liga, covering both Valencia CF and Levante’s news, signings, ups and downs. Madrid and Barcelona are huge, indeed, but the Spanish La Liga is much, much more: regarded as the top football competition in the world, he enjoys explaining why to every reader from abroad.



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