Spanish Inquisition: A Spy In The House Of Barcelona

Goal.com’s Ashish Sharma sheds some light on the latest boardroom scandal in Spain…

Football clubs behaving like they are the baddies in a James Bond thriller is a concept that is bemusing to the world at large, interesting to a film-maker with an eye for Hollywood, but disturbing for socios, fans and other staff members of said football club. 

So what to make of last Thursday’s revelations, in the Catalan newspaper El Periodico that four vice-presidents of Barcelona, have been spied on by their own club?  

Well, to the super excitable and often highly critical Madridista press, it confirms, (to misquote William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet) that “Something is rotten in the state of Barcelona.”  

And so there would seem to be. 

In a nutshell the club’s director-general Joan Oliver was revealed to have instigated a private investigation into the lives of vice-presidents Jaume Ferrer, Joan Boix, Rafael Yuste and Joan Franquesa which occurred five months ago. The four are strong candidates to replace Joan Laporta when his presidential tenure finishes at the end of the season.  Defending his decision, Oliver, claimed that this was NOT a case of “spying” or “espionage” but that it was a “security audit” aimed at protecting the four men.

Oliver also said that the decision was made after one of the four, Franquesa, had the feeling that he was being followed. Now be careful here, it seems expressing a feeling in Barcelona is tantamount to humungous change. In pre-season, coach Pep Guardiola had a “feeling” that Samuel Eto’o wasn’t right for the club and within a blink of an eye, Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the world’s second most expensive player, albeit via a transfer exchange. On this occasion Franquesa’s “feeling” brought on a reaction that even he could not have imagined.


Who's that on the phone, Joan?

Security of the club’s executive directors is a high priority at Barcelona. And it all goes back to the early days, when Laporta decided to take on the notoriously tough radical faction, the Boixos Nois. The supporters group, accused of having a neo-Nazi agenda, were often seen as the root of all trouble at the Camp Nou through acts of thuggery, hooligan behaviour and displaying racist tendencies.

Laporta instigated a zero tolerance policy and had them banned from the stadium. As a result, the supremo and the directors became the subject of constant death threats. In light of this, Franquesa’s discomfort is totally understandable.  But then why did the club not call in the police? Why bring in private investigators? And most crucially why also include three other vice-presidents in the security audit but not mention it to any of them?  

Its questions like these that can occupy one’s mind, during those dull moments in Real Madrid matches, watching the players trying to connect with each other, as though they actually are a team. In such moments the imagination runs away with itself, adds two and two together and comes up with a nuclear bomb. For example, perhaps the opportunity had presented itself to run some “checks” on the candidates. It’s a good chance to find out if there are any embarrassing skeletons to be dragged out of the closet.  

And who is behind Oliver? Could it be Laporta himself? His dynasty must end next year as he can’t run for a third term. He has had a controversial time as president. Laporta has been involved in his own scandals. He has also time and time again stupendously lifted up his foot and in the full glare of cameras and microphones, stuffed it fully into his mouth as gaffe after gaffe led to guffaw after guffaw.

Laporta has fallen out with his own directors, many resigning over the years, accusing him of being too authoritarian. Maybe Senor Laporta wants to continue to still have some influence as he prepares to skulk off away from the limelight. In his first public comments since the revelation, he defended the decision taken by Joan Oliver, eventhough he claims he was only informed about the “audit” after the event.  

Interestingly enough none of the four vice-presidents have screamed off to the Court of Human Rights, sobbing that they have been spied upon. Such is the prize that is up for grabs next year that morality hasn’t entered in the stakes. But this revelation suddenly changes the picture.


How will the regime change affect Pep & Barca's future?

Barcelona are a club about to shed all of its dignity off the pitch for a full on brawl at the ‘Bar’ end of the ‘celona’. The boardroom end, the end that belongs to the suits and ties. The end that controls all the power and shapes up the rest. It’s the noisy end of the deal, the end where dignity often gets lost, where stabbers and backstabbers hang around in dark corners like they were in a Roman court as opposed to a football club’s offices. 

The silent end of this whole charade is the end that has to detach itself from all the nonsense. And it’s the most important end. It’s the one that belongs to the everyday fans, the people who pay the money to see the team play. It’s the end in which the team also sits in. For the rest of this season, Guardiola and his brave men of football will be taking on 19 clubs in La Liga, some 31 top quality sides in the Champions League – not all of them, ofcourse – and their own club executives, who are likely to explode like incendiary devices at the next opportune moment. The team will be the one that has to forget all the background acrimony and just get on with doing what they do best: playing football 

Guardiola recently said he wasn’t in a hurry to sign an extension to his contract. This man was never born to be a fool.

Ashish Sharma, Goal.com