Despite Barcelona's treble last season, Josep Maria Bartomeu faces a tough challenge to remain as president in Saturday's elections due to criticism of his leadership and stiff competition from fellow frontrunner Joan Laporta.
Despite Barcelona’s treble last season, Josep Maria Bartomeu faces a tough challenge to remain as president in Saturday’s elections due to criticism of his leadership and stiff competition from fellow frontrunner Joan Laporta.
Victory in the Champions League against Juventus last month capped a memorable season for the Catalan club, who also won La Liga and the King’s Cup.
Bartomeu, however, is tarred by the dealings that took place over the transfer of Brazilian Neymar to Barca in 2013, which have embroiled the club in court proceedings.
Bartomeu replaced Sandro Rosell, who stood down over the Neymar scandal, last year and admitted that Neymar’s true cost was closer to 100 million euros ($108.9 million) rather than the 57.1 million euros ($62.1 million) previously claimed.
Further problems including a FIFA transfer ban for breaching rules regarding the signing of under-age players, Barca’s stuttering league form and a bust-up between coach Luis Enrique and Lionel Messi prompted Bartomeu, in January, to bring forward elections by a year.
Buoyed by Barca’s spectacular end to the season many fans are now happy to maintain the status quo though others are swayed by Laporta — president from 2003 until 2010 — who oversaw the building of Barca’s most successful side ever.
Following the appointment of coach Pep Guardiola in 2008 they won three La Liga titles and two Champions Leagues during his four-year tenure.
A brash figure who enjoys the limelight, Laporta also courted his fair share of controversy.
He showed little humility and there were claims of a lack of transparency and corruption during his presidency.
Agusti Benedito, who surprised many by finishing second in the last elections in 2010, is an outsider for the top job.
He hopes to win the support of fans looking for change and fed up with the personal attacks between Bartomeu and Laporta.
“Laporta, Rosell and Bartomeu are driven by hate and they are not capable of bringing a stop to this,” Benedito told Reuters.
“Laporta made a lot of errors (as president) that included taking advantage of his position. As for Bartomeu, the judicial process should disqualify him from the position.”
There is little chance though of an untried candidate winning the presidency with Bartomeu and Laporta neck and neck in the latest polls — some way ahead of Benedito in third.
($1 = 0.9192 euros)