JOAN Laporta is the new president of FC Barcelona… again.
La porta (‘the door’ in Catalan) opened for the 58-year-old lawyer yesterday (Sunday March 7) after obtaining more than 54% of the votes in a three-way contest against Victor Font – second place with 30% – and Toni Freixa, who obtained less than 10% of support.
Neither the coronavirus pandemic nor the disastrous management of former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu – arrested last week in connection with the ‘Barçagate’ scandal, as reported by The Olive Press – could dent the second highest level of participation ever in a FC Barcelona presidential election.
A total of 55,611 ballots were cast, representing just over half of the total club membership with the right to vote.
Laporta returns to the presidential box of the Camp Nou 11 years after leaving it in 2010, when he was ousted by a no-confidence vote after a seven-year streak at the head of the best Barça in history, in which the team conquered 12 titles including two Champions League and four La Liga trophies.
Back then, the president fell prey to accusations of using the post to further his personal pro-independence political agenda, ruling the team in a heavy-handed way, spying on members of his own executive, and striking a deal with a team from Uzbekistan – classed as one of the worst countries for human rights in the world.
In his victory speech last night, the prodigal president dedicated his win to Johan Cruyff, former Barça player and manager who lifted the team to international fame and whose legacy lives on in every aspect of the club.
Laporta also highlighted the fact that yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of Leo Messi’s debut with the Barça youth team, pointing out that the fact that ‘the best player in history’ went out to vote accompanied by his son shows that Messi ‘loves Barça’.
In fact, the returning president’s main mission this time round is to convince the Argentinean star to stay in Barcelona after last season he announced his plans to leave, possibly to join the ranks of Manchester City under his mentor and friend Pep Guardiola.
Barcelona football club is today a shadow of its former self, suffocated by financial debt – largely caused by the audience ban due to COVID – and with ‘new’ manager Ronald Koeman still adapting to his role.
Recent sporting results have not been particularly brilliant. Despite currently being second in La Liga just three points behind leaders Atlético Madrid, the Champions League continues to bring disaster upon disaster.
All eyes now are on the second leg away against PSG on Wednesday, in which Barça has to claw back from a seemingly impossible 1-4 home defeat.
The return of Joan Laporta is viewed as a much-needed shot of optimism for the fallen giant, and the scenes of celebration last night contrasted starkly with the coverage of Bartomeu spending a night in the cells before leaving the court ashen-faced last week.