The defeat of Futbol Club Barcelona in Saturday’s Copa del Rey final, coupled with the uproarious elimination of the blaugrana in the Champions League semifinal against Liverpool at Anfield, brings to a close a mediocre season on the field of play and one which should put an end to the cycle under the baton of Ernesto Valverde. Two consecutive collapses in just a few weeks bring the club face to face with reality: a lack of leadership both on the bench and on the board have shown up a squad that keeps on winning on many occasions by sheer inertia but needs to urgently find the figures who will rescue the club from the precipitous boredom into which it is falling.
In the end, all the institution's structures are affected by the sensation of apathy that has infested the club, which has gradually lost identity on the field at the same time as it has also been diluting its relationship with Catalan society to the point of becoming in many ways unrecognizable. Only by acknowledging that many things have been done wrongly for too long is there any hope of turning round the current situation. If not, why is it that, after Saturday’s defeat at the Benito Villamarín stadium, the most repeated phrase among commentators and fans was that at least this disaster provides the opportunity to change the coach and thoroughly renovate a squad that nobody has been able to motivate in the final stretch of the season for two years in a row?
But if the person who carries the can for the team, in addition to the players themselves, is the coach, it would not be fair to leave the board of directors out of this little commentary, starting with the club president. In fact, this season began with an affront that has not yet been corrected, by arbitrarily shifting the protocol seat assigned at matches to the Catalan president, away from the former place of honour in the official stand; this was a rule put in place when Catalan president Tarradellas arrived in the 1970s and maintained under Pujol, Maragall, Montilla, Mas and Puigdemont, until now it has been abolished so that club head Josep Maria Bartomeu occupies the place himself. It is no minor matter since, although it may allow certain political problems to be avoided, it generates others that are worrying in terms of the club's de-Catalanization. All this at a time when the political situation is what it is, as reflected by the existence of political prisoners and exiles.
Today, without looking any further, Carles Puigdemont and Oriol Junqueras lead the candidatures for their respective parties in the European elections. The recent history of the club is quite clear: the most important achievements have come from the presidents who understood that Barça was more than a club, not just one club more. And also with managers and players committed to an idea of club and of football, but also to the country, its people, its symbols, its language and its culture. It is still striking in this regard that Pep Guardiola often wears a yellow ribbon in Manchester to support the political prisoners and that in Camp Nou this is not to be seen. Certainly, there is a clear gap between the views of a very significant part of those who fill the stands and their official representatives.
Determination, lucidity and courage will be needed if there is a desire to repair this breach.