A bust up between Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and coach Luis Enrique and the firing of sports director Andoni Zubizarreta...
A bust up between Lionel Messi and coach Luis Enrique and the firing of sports director Andoni Zubizarreta in the aftermath of the club’s transfer ban has pushed an already tainted Barcelona board into crisis.
Talk of controversy is never far away when discussing the Catalan club that has more than its fair share of internal disputes, mainly due to the importance of the institution in the community.
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Yet a similar level of unrest has not been seen since the days of president Joan Gaspart, whose mismanagement led to his resignation and elections in 2003.
Just under a year ago, then-president Sandro Rosell resigned after a judge decided to investigate the transfer of Neymar from Santos after the case was taken up by a fan.
He was replaced by vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who immediately accepted that the Brazilian’s transfer fee was closer to 100 million euros ($119.26 million) rather than the 57.1 million previously stated.
There have been constant calls for renewed presidential elections, but Bartomeu has always been adamant that he would see out the board’s mandate, which runs until 2016.
It has been a troubled year for Bartomeu, which is now coming to a head with the departure of Zubizarreta and the team’s failure to convince under Luis Enrique.
Fans made their opinions clear when a video was played at the Nou Camp to celebrate Messi breaking the La Liga scoring record last November and a clip of Bartomeu and Zubizarreta prompted a chorus of whistles.
Zubizarreta’s record in the transfer market as sports director since 2010, when the Rosell presidency began, was generally poor.
From the outset, he never had the close relationship with coach Pep Guardiola that his predecessor Txiki Begiristain, now at Manchester City, enjoyed.
Along with the Neymar affair, Zubizaretta was blamed last year for failing to strengthen the defence, which was plainly lacking last season when the team failed to win a major trophy.
When he did buy ahead of this campaign many supporters were left disappointed with the signings of an ageing Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia and the little-known Brazilian Douglas.
The FIFA ban on signings for two windows for a breach of rules on the transfer of foreign Under-18 players proved to be a breaking point.
Zubizarreta’s position became untenable when he told Spanish television on Sunday night that the president shared responsibility for the ban.
“Bartomeu was at that time vice-president of sports and knew perfectly well the situation,” Zubizarreta told Canal Plus.
That led Barcelona to dismiss Zubizarreta the following day, while an emergency board meeting has been planned for Wednesday to discuss who will replace him.
The situation at board level would have less impact if the team was not also struggling and pressure is growing on Luis Enrique following their defeat away to Real Sociedad on Sunday.
The coach surprisingly left Messi and Neymar on the bench for that match, while his habit of chopping and changing the team has led to criticism from fans who accuse him of lacking a clear gameplan.
What could determine his future though is his relationship with Messi that appears to have broken down.
The Argentine argued with the coach in training last Friday and then on Monday failed to attend an open training session and a festive hospital visit to meet sick children, with the club saying he was unwell.
Luis Enrique is head strong but it appears as though he may be fighting a losing battle with the four times World Player of the Year.