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Sam Gold | The Gold Standard

One goal too quixotic

Published: Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Updated: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 06:02

Ethical and other dilemmas run rampant within the NFL. The Super Bowl, however, perhaps given its stature as a de facto national holiday, annually proves impervious to them. A day-long reprieve from the crises relentlessly — but rightfully, to be sure — besieging commissioner Goodell and his cronies. The Super Bowl barely qualified as such this year and does not lend itself to being written about in a profound manner.

Thank goodness for Barcelona. 

It surfaced recently that there was something rotten in the autonomous community of Catalonia. Murky details surrounding the transfer of Brazilian striker Neymar from his native club Santos to Barcelona, once thought to be an open-and-shut deal, purportedly prompted the resignation of club president Sandro Rosell.

In the not-too-distant past, Barcelona was struggling mightily to reconcile its populist model — nominally, its supporters own the team — with a balance sheet steeped in the red. Then came corporate sponsors, plans to remodel the Camp Nou, and the best player on the planet. 

Joan Laporta has been hailed as the man responsible for the turnaround. In 2003, Laporta was voted by members to reinvigorate the club and rescue it from insolvency. His successor, Rosell, campaigned robustly to ensure himself victory, reminding voters that his stint as vice president was as integral to the turnaround as was Laporta’s presidency. Rosell emerged victorious; who could deny his résumé.

Nearly two weeks ago, however, it all came crashing down. Rosell resigned amid threats to his family, replaced by Josep Maria Bartomeu, who was promoted to fill arguably the hottest seat in all of sports. Facing hostile cameras for the first time, Bartomeu parried a volley of questions, fired with ferocity atypical of a Barcelona press conference. By its conclusion, he had aged considerably. A blameless institution, a bastion of respectability, was coming undone at its seams. 

In fairness, nobody knows exactly where the money has gone. Barcelona alleges that it has done nothing wrong, and that it paid €57 million for Neymar, though disparities in figures suggest otherwise. Santos, his former club, claim that it received only €17.1 million of that amount. 

Transactions between two teams tend not to be just that when superstars, particularly those of little means, are involved; invested third parties and carpetbaggers view these as a gold mine and are thus inclined toward blackmail or some other lucrative modus operandi. Rosell conceded that, among other dubious dealings, Barcelona paid €40 million to such an entity: Neymar & Neymar. It also doled out substantial payments to minor brokers in exchange for promises that Neymar would go nowhere else. 

Unexpectedly, the illumination of these maneuvers and their concomitant pitfalls has spawned a legal minefield, FIFA violations notwithstanding. The Spanish High Court has stepped into the ring, which should mire the club in controversy for the coming months; additional taxes or fines levied, or points docked, are not out of the question either. 

That the world’s most formidable roster demanded yet another significant upgrade indicates only a ravenous appetite for victory — and perhaps paranoia — on the part of Barcelona’s upper management. That Barcelona has been cagey about the nature of its business relations reveals a darker secret that could well discredit the viability of a “mom-and-pop” style of management. 

Politicization and deceit now grip the whole of Catalonian fandom, its darling prostrated by gross misconduct. Hardly anyone has forecast the end of one of the greatest sports dynasties of the modern era, though a protracted legal battle could do untold harm. 

What follows, if severe enough, may necessitate an unprecedented restructuring of international club soccer. 

 

Sam Gold is a junior who is majoring in religion. He can be reached at Samuel_L.Gold@tufts.edu

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