Barcelona members have gone back to the future by voting for Joan Laporta to return as club president, inspired by the nostalgic hope that Laporta can return the Blaugrana to the glories enjoyed under his previous presidency between 2003 and 2010.
There is much work to be carried out. However, the most urgent task for Laporta with specific regards to the current team is to do…nothing.
In the circumstances, Barca are doing far better than anyone could have reasonably expected. They have a Copa del Rey final on the horizon after last week’s thrilling comeback against Sevilla and – after winning 13 of their last 16 league games – they are well and truly in the title race.
With so much to play for, the last thing Ronald Koeman and his players need is for their newly elected president to start making grand pronouncements about his plans to recruit new players or coaches, or his beliefs on the club’s playing philosophy.
Laporta is not necessarily known for subtle tact and diplomacy, but at this particular moment he just needs to give the team his support, and then leave them alone.
He does, though, need to start planning the team’s medium-term future, and the first and biggest task is to resolve Lionel Messi’s situation.
The question of whether or not Messi can be induced to sign a new contract is urgent not just because of the stature of the player himself, but because it will condition so many other issues.
If Messi leaves, for example, it would make sense to keep Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, who fill similar roles and could be expected to play a more prominent part in a post-Messi era.
But if Messi stays, those two players could and should be sold to help fund Messi’s wages and the signing of a world-class centre forward, the current squad’s biggest deficit.
Messi, if at all possible, should be retained. As he showed with his outrageous pass to Jordi Alba to create the opener in Saturday’s win at Osasuna, he is still capable of doing things on a football field that no other player can imagine, never mind execute. And his role in mentoring and inspiring the squad’s very promising batch of gifted youngsters should not be underestimated.
Laporta and Messi have a good historical relationship and the new president is perhaps better placed than anyone to persuade Messi to stay – which is a big part of the reason he has been elected. Although Messi has said he will wait until the end of the season before making a decision, Laporta needs to initiate conversations with the captain’s wider entourage, right now.
Keeping Messi and signing a new striker requires a lot of money, and addressing the club’s perilous debt – which currently unbelievably exceeds 1 billion euros – is another immediate issue for Laporta.
The new president has already taken a significant step in that direction by appointing a new CEO, Ferran Reverter, who arrives with a track record of success in the business world and will take much responsibility for improving the club’s horrific finances.
One way of bringing in a big lump sum of badly needed cash relatively quickly would be to sell the naming rights to the Camp Nou – an idea Laporta has admitted he is prepared to consider.
The idea of attaching the name of a sponsor to their holy home might upset traditionalists…but seeing the club go bankrupt would presumably upset them even more, so they may just have to like it or lump it. By the start of next season, will we see Barca playing at the Sport360 Camp Nou? Leave it with us.