Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who ascended to his position midway through the 2013-14 season, believes his club’s image has been tarnished due to the controversial transfer of Neymar from Santos last summer.
The club was also given a 14-month transfer ban in April because FIFA ruled Barcelona had broken rules governing the signing of international players under the age of eighteen.
But that transfer ban was quickly appealed by the Blaugrana and the ruling was put on hold, thus allowing Barca to bring new players into the Nou Camp this summer.
The La Liga giants have also courted controversy by agreeing the transfer of Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who the Catalan club signed despite the player being banned from all football-related activity for four months by FIFA for his third biting incident, which took place during this summer’s World Cup in Brazil.
Despite those negative headlines, Barcelona’s president believes that the club has been completely transparent and has learned from the experiences of the past twelve months.
In an interview with The Times, Bartomeu stated: “We have learnt a lot this past year. A lot of the things that have happened have not been positive, but in a sense they have all been good experiences, because they have informed what we will do in the future.”
“We do not feel our standing [in world football] has fallen on the pitch. Any team can have one season when they do not win a major trophy. That is football. Maybe we feel that in some aspects off the pitch [our image has suffered]: the problem with Fifa and the young players, the issue with Neymar. Maybe our image has suffered for these things. But you have to learn when things are not as good as they can be, and we have.”
“This is not a normal club. You can ask any one of our members — and there are almost 160,000 of them, who between them own the club — what ‘mes que un club’ means to them. They would all say something different.”
“It means we have to be democratic, transparent, that we have to explain everything we do. Some think that [in the Neymar case] we were not transparent. But because a member asked us [to disclose the transfer amount], we did. It is the exact opposite. We were completely transparent. No other club in the world has to do that or would do that.”
“We have a pressure not just to be better than everyone else in a football sense, but in a social sense, in an economic sense, in terms of the real state of the club. We know, though, that we have to be better and better in every sphere, to be more efficient and more professional at the board level, at the top of the club. That is what we are trying to do.”
Regarding the transfer of Luis Suarez, the Barcelona president feels that the player apologized and “that is enough” for the club. He also expressed that the Catalans were not influenced by the Uruguayan checkered past.
“His reputation did not influence our thinking, not at all. We will help him to come back to a proper way of playing and of acting. He knows he did wrong. That is why he apologized. Everyone knows that what he did was wrong. For us, that is enough. We want him to perform as he did at Liverpool — and let’s not forget that last season he acted perfectly. We have to learn from what Liverpool did.”
“At La Masia, we do not just produce players. We create people, too. They grow with the values that we teach them. When we buy players, it is one of our commitments and obligations that they act in the way the club demands.”
“We want to win, yes, but we feel we can do that while still being moral.”
What are your thoughts on Barcelona? Have the past twelve months effected how you view the club? Has its image been tarnished?