Barcelona: Like A Drunk Yelling At A Mirror

The biggest threat to Barcelona this season is themselves. It was business as usual against Malaga after Sandro Rosell's departure, but for how long...?

Last Updated: 27/01/14 at 09:58 Post Comment

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If every time a player in La Liga turned into a jelly-legged flop or became too overwhelmed with existential thoughts over a club president standing down - as in Sandro Rosell's case at Barça - or going to jail for corruption (the fate awaiting Sevilla's José María del Nido), then life would be very troublesome indeed.

However, such is the frequency of institutional upheaval in Spain, that one rich, stuffy man being replaced by another rich, stuffy man is pretty much water off a duck's back. As long as the salaries arrive on time (mostly) and training is not too early in the morning, nor run too late into the afternoon, then everyone is happy. "We are competing the exact same way, out on the pitch," noted Gerard Piqué on his teammates' reaction to his own club losing its big cheese.

Part of the talk in the Catalan capital ahead of Barcelona's clash with Málaga on Sunday was how the club's players would react to the sudden and admittedly surprising resignation of Rosell on Thursday. The answer is 'didn't even notice'. Indeed, that certainly looked the case in a photograph published of the new president, Josep María Bartomeu, visiting the dressing room after training on Friday with the players appearing fairly vacant and non-plussed - the general vibe of Leo Messi most days.

After all, a change in the boardroom wasn't going to suddenly give Málaga an attacking threat, nor make Barça less susceptible from set-pieces. From the off, the game followed the normal pattern for the team that have now led La Liga for 59 rounds: chances created, chances missed, some scored and wobbles at the other end.

The one difference in the stadium was a different besuited bum sitting in the presidential seat, a figure who has had to follow the balancing act of publicly and privately feeling very sorry for his friend who stepped down, whilst subtly asking around in the corridors of the club if there was a private jet at his disposal and what was the budget for the redecoration of his office.

The immediate plan for Barcelona is for the club to carry on until the next elections are due in 2016. Bartomeu is a former Sporting Vice President and is perfectly entitled to stay in place until the current mandate runs out, according to the statutes of the club. For the most part, his biggest job will be to distance himself from the Neymar transfer affair - a web that entangled his predecessor - and try to pay Messi even more money, to keep the Argentinean sweet.

At Thursday's press conference to announce his departure, Rosell claimed that there was nothing untoward in regards to the €57m deal for the Brazilian, despite reports that the deal could have cost Barça almost €100m in total. Rosell revealed that he was stepping down to avoid being a distraction and due to personal threats against himself and his family. His stance was weakened by the fact that the former Nike executive had few supporters in his corner over the affair. Indeed, most polls amongst supposed fans in the Barcelona media expressed pleasure in seeing the back of him.

The Neymar affair merely enforced the reputation developed by Rosell for being more interested in cutting deals with strategic partners than following the pure, mythical nature of a club that should remain forever untainted by unseemly sponsorship. The mantra from Rosell in his defence has always been that this philosophy is all very charming, but it doesn't pay the wages of Messi and Andrés Iniesta.

It will be up to a judge to decide if there was any funny business with the Neymar deal, but for the moment, Barcelona need to stay focused on the three-horse race in La Liga and a tremendously challenging clash with Manchester City in the Champions League.

Although the English club, along with Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid, will certainly be feisty foes over the next few weeks, the biggest rival for Barcelona will be, as always, Barcelona. The size, history, philosophy and deeply political nature of the club often results in Barcelona picking a fight with themselves, like a drooling drunkard yelling abuse and threats at a mirror.

Whilst the team may be able to stay focused in upcoming months on the grounds that money and cars are their main day-to-day concerns, how the fans will react to the continuation of the current regime will be key for the remainder of the season. It's a self-inflicted kerfuffle that leaves four opponents currently blocking Barcelona's path to success from now until May, rather than three.

Round 21 Results

Celta Vigo 4-2 Betis

Real Madrid 2-0 Granada

Valencia 2-2 Espanyol

Sevilla 2-3 Levante

Valladolid 1-0 Villarreal

Almería 1-0 Getafe

Osasuna 1-5 Athletic Bilbao

Rayo 2-4 Atlético Madrid

Barcelona 3-0 Málaga

Real Sociedad vs. Elche (Monday)

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