Pep Guardiola after Rosell allegedly making an attack on Guardiola through the Spanish press criticising him over having only visited cancer stricken Barca boss Tito Vilanova once whilst both Pep and Tito were in New York. Guardiola let rip in a pre-season press conference after having recently taken charge at Bayern Munich. Accusing Barca of breaking their word to ‘ leave him in peace ‘ during his year out of the game when in New York on sabbatical, stating that Rosell's comments were nothing more than an excuse to attack him personally. ‘I told them ( the President and directors ) I was going 6,000km away and asked them to leave me in peace but they haven’t kept their word,’ he told the world’s media. ‘I will never forget that they used Tito’s illness to cause me damage, because it’s a lie that I never saw him in New York. I saw him once and the reason I didn’t see him more often was because it wasn’t possible, and that wasn’t my fault.’ Rosell denied any wrongdoing and was quoted as saying that Pep’s assault on the club’s hierarchy was a surprise and that there was not a hint of truth to their ex manager’s claims. This wasn’t what would be considered the “Barca way,” then again, neither is when the President is found to have lied about the price paid on a player by the “miscalculation” of €30 million?!
When it came to Sandro Rosell and Barcelona there was a hint of the enigma about it. He was a ballboy with the club as a child and his father was director. His father actually being the club director who broke the bust of General Franco, that had been placed in the Nou Camp, the day the General died. Following on from the hugely popular, successful and charismatic Joan La Porta was never going to be easy and Rosell didn’t quite seem to “ get it. “ Under his presidency the team won the league, Copa del Rey, Fifa’s World Club Cup. They also won their fourth European Cup in their history but there was still the feeling that they weren’t HIS trophies. In the intense world of Spanish football for the big two of Barca and Real, presidents stand or fall with the media, every bit as much with the fans on the signings they make and how successful they are. Doesn’t matter if it’s a Perez or a Rosell, they need to make a marque signing early into their presidency and Rosell hadn’t. All trophies collected were courtesy of players from the La Porta reign. El Presidente planned to change that with a signing that should’ve been his greatest triumph and something that would be his legacy of his time at the top at Camp Nou, yet ultimately ended with his resignation.
For what had seemed like years, the name of Santos striker Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, had been one that was perpetually being linked with Europe’s top clubs. YouTube clips certainly aren’t the mark of what a good player is, there’s probably a few actual managers who know that now! With Neymar though, despite him being labelled in some quarters as just that, a “YouTube player,” the lad appeared to have talent and if what was being displayed on YouTube clips could be applied in Europe then he would undoubtedly light up whichever league he chose to join in Europe. And so the stampede for his signature began. Real Madrid, as ever, put down a marker, president Florentino Perez started publicly speaking of Neymar in the press in that completely tapping up another player while not quite doing enough to get pulled up for it by the authorities way that he generally does when he wants a player. The rest of Europe’s big guns followed with Neymar effectively having his choice of where he wanted to move to. Unbeknown to the rest of the world, Neymar was Rosell’s from the start. With his close ties to former Brazilian president Ricardo Teixeira, in addition to his many business links throughout the country, Rosell had Neymar in the bag before any club could even put in a serious bid for the player. And at just under €58m for one of the most sought after players on the planet it appeared to be a bargain too, appeared.
A cheap price for a top drawer player, only this wasn’t exactly true. No sooner was Rosell basking in the glory of “ his presidential defining moment ‘ than questions were being raised over the deal to bring the Brazilian international to La Liga. A lot of jealousy and suspicion had come out of Madrid over the fact that Barca had pipped Real for the signing of Neymar and for such a knock down price, only for Perez to sign Gareth Bale months later for almost DOUBLE the money Neymar was acquired for. The problems for Rosell didn’t come from Madrid however, instead they came from within a Barca “ Socio “ called Jordi Cases, a pharmacist from Esparreguera. It has never been revealed just what his motivation was but as a Barca member, and as was his right, he demanded that the club clarify just exactly where all of the alleged 57 million Euros had gone in the pursuit of Neymar. Questions had already started to be asked and as a Barca socio, Cases demanded answers. The Barca board ignored him, this was to prove to be Rosell’s biggest mistake of his presidency and what would end up being the catalyst to his resignation. Blanked by La Blaugrana board, Cases instead went to the courts to get answers. This is when things began to get messy and the Barca board’s web of deceit over the Neymar deal started to unravel. Once Cases went to the courts the can of worms was opened and would not be able to be closed again. After an official investigation had been carried out, the public prosecutor had filed a report advising that in their opinion there were grounds to suspect Barca of entering into “ simulated contracts “ when agreeing to sign Neymar from Santos and the judge duly accepted Jordi Cases’ request to pursue with the case.
President Rosell evaded the question of how much the Neymar deal had really cost time and time again in true political fashion. By then Spanish newspaper El Mundo had already nailed their colours to the mast by claiming that the actual cost of the deal was coming in at around 95 million Euros. Eventually Rosell snapped when asked the question once more. “ The cost was €57.1 million, y punto. “ 57 million, full stop. Less than a week later Rosell was gone, resignation tendered and new president Josep Maria Bartomeu was laying out the new figures to the Spanish press. The total cost of the transfer was more than €86.2, ever so slightly more than had previously been disclosed. Rosell had resigned the day before Bartomeu’s revelations, the departing president, citing his reason for resigning, the personal attacks and jealousy from Barca’s rivals. A thinly veiled attack on Real Madrid and their Madrid based mouthpieces in the press. He also spoke of threats to his safety, not one reason given for resigning was given as his deceit in the Neymar signing. When Barca eventually disclosed all the relevant information regarding Neymar and how they acquired his signing it was as complex as it was mind-blowing.
According to the club, they paid ( as stated from day uno ) €57.1m on the transfer fee BUT what they had neglected to mention up to this point was all of the “ add-ons “ that helped beat the rest of Europe’s leading clubs to his signature. Out of the €57.1m, 40m went to a company called N&N which was owned by Neymar’s father, the company that held the economic rights to the player, the remainder of €17.1m went to his club Santos. The reasons for such a small amount to Santos was due to the fact his contract was due to expire the year after so naturally his market value had diminished. After the initial €57.1 that the Barcelona board had always claimed to be the transfer fee it becomes a bit more complicated and murky. Even the €17.1m that went to Santos was as clear as mud, only 55% of the payment actually went to Santos. Two separate companies, SONDA and TEISA were due a windfall from the Neymar money too, SONDA receiving 40% of the €17.1m and TEISA collecting the remaining 5%. After that there was a series of payments for a plethora of “ services “. The obligatory agents fees which came close to €3m, €10m signing on fee to the player, €4m “ marketing fees “ to Neymar’s father ( at this point it is still not exactly clear what this actually means and why such a high amount was paid. ) €2.5m to Neymar’s charities, €7.9m on a joint venture with Santos that would guarantee Barca first choice on any future Santos stars, the list of payments went on and on. The new Barca president had no choice but to admit that, not including salary, the total cost of the Neymar deal had been €86.2m, yet whispers still remain that it is in fact even higher than that amount.
What I found the most confusing as this drama played itself out, was that with all of those add-ons Barca hadn’t actually done anything wrong so why had they acted like they HAD? Had they answered Jordi Cases question as to where all the money went on the signing, a question that as a member, and therefore one of the people who effectively run FC Barcelona, with a Gaspart, a La Porta or a Rosell nothing more than a glorified custodian, were perfectly in their rights to ask. Things would have been completely different, there would be no investigation by the courts into the club’s dealings and it’s fair to say that Rosell may still be in charge today. The public court’s investigation into the Neymar deal with the accusations of simulated contracts has not come to a conclusion at this point of writing, but meanwhile the club has wasted no time in attaching itself to another scandal that has had the football world talking about them.
In April 2014 FIFA issued the club with a 2 window transfer ban due to Barca “ repeatedly “ breaking transfer regulations in signing international under 18 players. According to the world governing body, Rules state that clubs can only sign international players if they are over 18, the only caveat being that the player meets one of three criteria. An under 18 player can move internationally IF their parents also move with them but for non footballing reasons, if they are from another nation inside the European Union and if they are older than 16 and thirdly if they live within 100km of the club. Several, as yet unnamed by FIFA, players were signed by Barca that did not fall into these criteria and found FIFA coming down hard on them with a very public slap down. FIFA and UEFA are often criticized for going missing when the big clubs step out of line but are always there with stiff punishments for the little guys, not this time. Barca appealed against the 2 transfer window ban, having their suspension lifted just long enough to bulk buy while their appeal had been submitted to the Court of Arbitration, safe in the knowledge that their appeal didn’t have a leg to stand on and they simply wanted to buy some time to get players in before the chance was taken away by the next window in January 2015. The club spending over 100m on players including, Luis Suarez, Thomas Vermaelen and Marc-Andrea ted Stengen once their appeal had been lodged.
Recently, as had been expected, CAS upheld FIFA’s decision and Barca were issued with the transfer ban with no option of appeal which now sees the club unable to make any transfers for the rest of 2015. This confirmation in itself was what saw Sporting Director and club legend Andoni Zubizaretta facing calls for his resignation from the board due to comments made by him that accused now President Bartomeu of being complicit in the illegal signings of some of the international under 18 players. Pointing the finger at Bartomeu as one of those responsible if not him directly accountable for the transfer ban. ‘ I assume my responsibility as the person in charge of the football department, but the sporting vice president at the time, Josep Maria Bartomeu, is the one who knew the situation better than anyone. ‘ With a public attack on his own president, Zubi had to go. He was sacked under the convenient reason that with a transfer ban in place for the next year and his remit being to source players to add to the squad, his role had effectively and in every sense of the word been made redundant. Another club legend Carles Puyol, who had, after retiring, taken up the role of Zubizaretta’s assistant also left his post thanking the club for the opportunity to see another side of the club other than as a player but that he wanted to experience “something different.”
That El Camp Nou has been a happier place than it is at the moment would be an understatement. After recent years it’s hard to look at the club in the misty eyed way that was so easy to do before, everything that they’ve had to contend with? If it had been any other club I wouldn’t even be sat here writing about it because it would be behaviour that you would EXPECT from any other club side in Europe. It is BECAUSE it’s Barcelona that it’s only notable. Football today is, let’s face it, almost completely without its scruples and the image that Barca were / laughably still are, only too happy to project, was one at odds with the rest of their rivals. Present day however shows a club who has completely gone through the looking glass. Now that the sponsor side of things has died down, talk is now for next season of them scrapping their iconic striped shirts for hooped ones due to having a more attractive market value. I’m not naive by any stretch, the history of the club has never been one of plain sailing. Presidents have been unpopular ( name one inside or outside the footballing world who hasn’t, ) white hankies have been waved, players have left under clouds, no more than the Luis Figo saga. The team hasn’t always been the free flowing Harlem Globetrottersesque tiki taka displaying superstars that came into force through Pep Guardiola’s term in charge and have, over the years, had playing staff who have drained millions from the club that should never have gotten close to pulling on the iconic shirt. In a playing and winning sense Barca went through some dark days, many dark days as far as a top side is concerned. Yet through it all they always managed to retain this almost saintly aura about them, yes of course a lot of that is down to what comes from out with their own PR machine, but the media and most of the pubic were only too willing to swallow it up. The past 10 years have been most damaging to them however and now, due to their various indiscretions, they've now lost that aura they once held. Despite never being a Barca supporter I simply loved the IDEA of them, loved that as big as they were they were still different from any of the other clubs across Europe that more than matched them in size, success and stature. That idea is gone now, forever. Mes Que Un Club is dead, long live Nome’s Un Altre Club because as large and successful as Barca were, are and always will be, all they are now is “ just another club.”
Part One Here