Whither Barcelona’s reputation

Could Barcelona really be just another club? Could it be that it’s being dragged into petty politics, just like other clubs, and tapping-up targeted players, just like other clubs? It’s sad, but that just might be happening.

I’m not sure what former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart was thinking when he revealed that he wanted either Arsène Wenger or Fabio Capello to manage the team in 2001. What difference could that make to Barcelona in 2010? Apparently, both Arsenal (Wenger) and Roma (Capello) refused to allow Gaspart to interview their managers. How is this news? So one of the big clubs in the world wanted to attract a highly-respected manager. That’s not a surprise. The only reason Gaspart would go public now is to embarrass Barcelona’s current leadership. And that’s just dumb (unless he wants to be president again). So, there’s no point to his revelations.

Cesc Fàbregas, Arsenal captain and Barcelona targer

Of more concern to Barcelona’s fans are the near-constant tapping-up of Fàbregas for the last two years. He’s from Barcelona, participated in the youth system, and he wants to play there again someday. But he’s 23 years old and he has a long career ahead of him. He’s also Arsenal’s captain, which raises another large problem.

Canadian basketball player Steve Nash could have done what so many did before him: demand a trade when it became clear, after the 2008-09 season that the Phoenix Suns were rebuilding. But he realized that he couldn’t lead if he did so, and signed a contract extension. As a result, the Suns had a good season and Nash remained in his leadership position. Which brings us to Fàbregas.

He needed to come out and say he was staying at Arsenal for the foreseeable future. That wouldn’t have ended the speculation (I’m certain Barcelona would have continued tapping him up) but it would have made his own position clear. And it would have ensured his leadership position in Arsenal’s locker room, especially important since he is the captain.

At the same time, Barcelona should have stopped its pursuit sooner (it has apparently conceded defeat, for now). First, they have two extraordinarily gifted midfielders in Xavi and Andrés Iniesta, neither of whom are retiring anytime soon. So, there is no place for Fàbregas on the pitch (witness the Spanish national team’s first XI). Second, he’ll cost a fortune (assuming he is actually available, which he’s not). Thus, it would be a vanity signing and nothing else.

Barcelona doesn’t have the financial resources to make vanity signings; it’s not Manchester City. Barcelona’s weaknesses (primarily depth and, perhaps, reliable scoring) need to be addressed more than adding another midfielder. That, combined with Gaspart’s ill-timed and ill-conceived revelation, make Barcelona just another club. It needs to be above the fray in order to be mes que un club.

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