Josep Maria Bartomeu, the former president of Barcelona, has been arrested by the Mossos d’Esquadra last Monday. CEO Oscar Grau and lawyer Roman Gomez Ponti were also arrested at the Camp Nou, while former director Jaume Masferrer was, like Bartomeu, arrested at his home.

It was because of the Barcagate Scandal which shook the Barcelona establishment and world football last month.

MARCA reported on February 18, 2021, “Barcelona were at the center of another storm on Monday as reports emerged that claimed they contracted I3 Ventures to publish social media posts that attacked current and former players, as well as other club legends.”

“Later on Monday night, a 36-page document was brought up on Spanish radio, with this dossier appearing to prove that I3 Ventures are behind the social media accounts in question.”

“The dossier was discussed on Cadena SER, the same radio station that first broke the original story, and it is signed by ‘Nicestream’.

“It shows the activity of the six accounts, data which can only be accessed by the administrator of those accounts.”

“The station also mentioned the Facebook page ‘Respeto y Deporte’, which it says is associated with I3 Ventures.”

“It’s worth remembering that both I3 Ventures and Barcelona denied the original information published by Cadena Ser and that Barcelona stated that I3 Ventures had no connection with the accounts, even threatening legal action.”

“I3 Ventures, a service provider to the club, has no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship were to come to light, the club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests,” the statement said.

“I3 Ventures themselves stated that they had no such agreement with the Catalan club.”

But the doubts always existed.

An external audit carried out by PricewaterhouseCoopers ruled out Bartomeu’s board as being behind it, yet judicial proceedings were opened when a judge from the 13th Barcelona investigating court, Adriana Gil, accepted a complaint from the Dignitat Blaugrana platform, a group of club members. That complaint alleged mismanagement and/or individual corruption.

At the center of the investigation is the claim that Barcelona paid six times the normal market price for the services. This, though, was also dismissed in the external audit.

In the summer of 2020, the judge ordered police to visit the club offices to collect information about the case.

Well, the outcome was devastating – Bartomeu was arrested.

But he was released on Tuesday, a Barcelona court said, a day after he was arrested in a probe related to allegations of improper management and business corruption.

The statement said Bartomeu, President between 2014 and 2020, and his former adviser Jaume Masferrer, had made use of their right not to give a statement in court and the judge had agreed to their provisional release.

Bartomeu was among four people connected with the club arrested on Monday in what Catalan police called “an investigation into alleged crimes related to property and the socio-economic order.”

Barcelona CEO Oscar Grau and legal services director Roman Gomez Ponti were detained and later released on Monday while Bartomeu and Masferrer spent the night in a Barcelona police station.

“It’s not a good look for the club,” Ronald Koeman said during Tuesday’s pre-match press conference.

“We have to wait and see what happens. I wasn’t here [at the time], I don’t know what happened. We can’t do anything; we have to focus on football.”

“It’s an uncomfortable situation but I hope it will finish well,” the Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola said at his press conference. “He’s already innocent until the court proves he is guilty.”

In addition, Guardiola revealed that he has high hopes for his former club going forward as Joan Laporta, Victor Font, and Toni Freixa vie for the club’s presidency in the March 7 election.

“Only I’m concerned is that in one week we’ll have a new president,” he said.

“It’s a difficult situation at Barcelona but the new man needs to have the courage to lead in the next years. As many people as possible can vote and lead the best club in the world.”

“I’m pretty sure they’ll come back stronger. The new president has to lead with confidence and get the fans together and that will make them the club they are. I’m looking forward to the election and, hopefully, the president will be okay.”

Just six years ago, Bartomeu was at the helm but gradually the relationship with certain players strained and his investments backfired.

Before the elections in 2014-15, the previous board, with Bartomeu himself at the helm, had closed a sponsorship agreement with Qatar Airways. Emboldened by the Champions League success, Bartomeu was willing to renegotiate the agreement with the intention to get an even better deal. However, no agreement was reached and Barcelona’s partnership with Qatar ceased to exist.

Meanwhile, Barca spent several million euros to sign players such as Arda Turan, Aleix Vidal, Lucas Digne, Paco Alcacer, Andre Gomes, and Samuel Umtiti, none of whom managed to stand out.

At the same time, Bartomeu offered new big-money deals to players such as Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique, and Luis Suarez.

As a result, Barcelona became the club with the highest wage bill in European football and the entity which has been dealt the hardest blow during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The final blow came in the summer of 2017 when PSG, a club owned by Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), snatched Neymar after triggering the Brazilian forward’s buyout clause.

Barcelona earned a large sum for Neymar’s move but, once again, failed to invest properly, signing Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho – who cut a sorry figure.

One year after becoming Barcelona’s president, Bartomeu saw the club pleading guilty to two crimes against the tax agency derived from the signing of Neymar.

Both former Barcelona presidents Sandro Rosell and Bartomeu were proven not guilty.

At the end of the day, the image of the club had been damaged and the bad times for Bartomeu don’t seem to end at all.

He has experienced the cult of individual players in the team, back-stabbing as per rumours, humiliation, jail sentence, and then bailing out – the lean-patch continues to prolong.


How Bartomeu would strike back remains a moot question.

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