Barcelona presidential elections: A look at three candidates Joan Laporta, Victor Font, Toni Freixa
Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are the final candidates in the Barcelona presidential elections that will take place on Sunday.
Barcelona are a club that are in the news for their activity on the pitch and off it. In the recent few weeks, the Catalans have cut down the deficit on Atletico Madrid in the league; trail PSG by 1-4 margin in the Champions League and on Wednesday progressed to the final of the Copa del Rey in extra-time.
If that wasn't enough drama, it comes on the back of the arrests of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, his advisor Jaume Masferrer, CEO Oscar Grau and head of legal Roman Gomez Ponti. The arrests were made in relation to the "Barcagate" scandal and the club facilities were searched by the police.
On Sunday, the club looks to the future with the delayed presidential elections. Joan Laporta, Toni Freixa and Victor Font are three final candidates to take over from Bartomeu who had stepped down in October. The elections were initially scheduled to take place on 24 January but were postponed owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey conducted within socis able to vote shows that, as of today, Joan Laporta is still the clear favorite. They were also asked on who they thought was going to win, in which Laporta also came first.
— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 2, 2021
We take a look at all three candidates with special emphasis on the recent "Barcagate" arrests, club's financial situation, how to deal with the Lionel Messi situation and if the candidate has publicly declared any sporting plans.
Laporta has previously served as Barcelona president from 2003 to 2010 and is the frontrunner to get a new term again. He plans on developing an improved Camp Nou by raising its capacity to 105,000 in four year's time and banks on his relationship with Lionel Messi to keep him at the club.
He has labelled his project as "Estimem el Barca" ("We love Barca") and slogan of "Ganas de Volver a Veros" ("Looking forward to seeing you again"). A banner with the slogan was placed on a building near Real Madrid's Bernabeu stadium in December. It was under Laporta's presidency that Barcelona won a jaw-dropping sextuple in 2009.
He ran for the presidency in 2015 as well but lost by a margin of ten thousand votes to Bartomeu.
On "Barcagate": "The presumption is one of innocence. It is not good news for Barça because he has been president of the club," he was quoted as saying by Diario AS.
“It is true that he did not have a good management style but he is still president of Barça and the news has not been pleasant. It is shocking news.”
On Messi: "I wish we could celebrate the 125th anniversary at the new Camp Nou and with Leo with us. The issue of the stadium is not easy because it takes two years to build it," he told Goal.
"The issue of Leo is easier than the stadium. It would be very nice to get to this anniversary with Messi, it would be good final fireworks."
"Because I tell the truth, I am the one with the most experience and determination, as well as the most credibility in his eyes. It fills me with pride that he tells me that everything I told him was fulfilled.
"This gives me a position and, if I am president of Barcelona, and that is one of the reasons, I will see what I can offer him within the possibilities of the club in terms of finances and in what interests Leo from a sporting perspective.
"He wants to win the Champions League again with Barca and we have to make him see that this will be possible."
In the debate between all three candidates, Laporta said, "I am sure that if someone else wins the election, Messi won't stay at the club.
"I have a good relationship with him, there's a lot of respect. We'll make him an offer based on the club's situation.
"Maybe we can't compete financially, but Messi is not ruled by money. He wants to end his career at the highest level possible."
— Guillem Balague (@GuillemBalague) March 4, 2021
Font is the second most likely candidate to helm the club. He has spoken about players' image rights, need to sell players and better consultation with board members on major proposals.
He has spoken of getting former captain Xavi Hernandez involved, ideally in a managerial capacity, and separately found support from Carles Puyol and former president Joan Gaspart. Font had initially stated he would install Xavi as coach immediately from his current role in Qatar with Al Sadd but has since supported Koeman to continue.
He announced his candidacy in June 2018 and had unveilved his project 'Si al Futur' in 2015. He's the CEO of a consulting firm, one of the founders of the Catalan newspaper Ara and shares board room seat with Xavi in a football software company. His proposed executive board members include Toni Nadal, uncle and ex-coach of tennis player Rafael Nadal
On "Barcagate" and Bartomeu's arrest: "We are fresh air, the new ones, those who want to change the club's model," Font stated to Radio Marca.
"What happened this week reaffirms us... Barcelona are being managed as if it were the 1980s.
"When I read the news about Barcagate I felt sad; we have been on the front page all over the world and not for winning the Champions League."
"We must totally end corruption. It kills meritocracy… It is a way of making an era inherent that must be eradicated if we want to move forward as a club without hindrances or fears."
On Messi: "We have a lot of challenges for the next five or 10 years," he said, per Marca, in early 2019. "A key one, and one of the first, is the management of the end of [Lionel] Messi [as he gets towards retiring]."
More recently, Font said, "Messi has told us that what matters to him to stay is the sporting project," per Radio Marca. "In this case, there is no one better to convince him than Xavi Hernandez."
On team's future: Font has reportedly identified eight players to bolster the squad. The players identified are not the high profile signings that would win presidencies - ala Florentino Perez and Luis Figo at Real Madrid - but smart ones keeping the club's financial situation in mind.
Manchester City's Eric Garcia, Sergio Aguero, Bayern Munich's David Alaba, Liverpool's Gini Wijnaldum, PSG's Juan Bernat, Lyon's Memphis Depay, Granada's Rui Silva and AC Milan's Calhanoglu are the players identified as per Marca.
Freixa is the third most popular candidate going into the presidential elections. He is a 52-year-old lawyer and was part of Sandro Rosell's board as spokesperson and secretary in 2010. He was a candidate in the 2015 elections as well and finished fourth. His campaign slogan reads, 'Fidels al Barça' or 'Loyal to Barça' with focus on giving the socios the power in a democratic organisation.
Unlike Font, he has put his weight behind sticking with Ronald Koeman as manager. He believes Xavi should first take over the Barcelona B side before progressing to the senior team. He promised a five year shirt sponsorship deal with a company from Silicon Valley that will fetch the club 60 million euros a year starting 2022-23 season.
Massa gent volent fer mal al Barça. No ho permetrem. Mai caminaràs sol 💙❤️
— Toni Freixa (@tonifreixa) March 1, 2021
On "Barcagate": “Too many people want to hurt Barça. We will not allow it. You’ll Never Walk Alone,” he had tweeted.
In a press conference he said, "The entrance of the Mossos (the police) at the club was broadcast by the press that was called. A former president and a former employee spent the night in jail. A 'performance' that I imagine serves a purpose. I do not know the facts, I trust in the justice system, in the presumption of innocence. That this happens in the middle of the campaign, it has a purpose, the socios cannot be fooled and they will know how to draw conclusions and perhaps a different result than what many expect.”
On managerial position: "He (Koeman) has arrived and is already making decisions, when you hire a coach you have to support him until the end. Koeman will not let us down, for sure, I'm convinced that he will do a great job and I want him to be our coach for many years," he had said in a press conference in January.
More recently, he told Catalunya Radio, "The same as (Pep) Guardiola was the B team coach and later was brilliant with the first team, Barça B is a good path for Xavi to start on at Barça."
On Messi: "I'm happy that Messi has stayed at Barcelona," he said. "A sporting project without his presence isn't something that can be understood.
"I want us to enjoy him, the past is the past and I think both he and the club have acted very well."
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