FC Barcelona travel to Paris ahead of Wednesday night’s Champions League tie away to Paris Saint Germain with a change of mood in the air after Joan Laporta was elected as club president on Sunday night.
Laporta’s return to the presidency he held between 2003 and 2010 was sanctioned by around 58 percent of the club members who cast their votes, with many of them no doubt remembering the ‘glory days’ of his first mandate.
Those saw the charismatic 58-year-old oversee the transformation of the club in a reign which saw two distinct periods: the first of which belonged to Frank Rijkaard and saw the signing of players such as Ronaldinho, who returned the smile to the faces of Barca fans. Meanwhile, players such as Deco and Samuel Eto’o and the emerging Xavi Hernandez and Iniesta formed the backbone of a side that would end Real Madrid’s hegemony in Spain and leave Florentino Perez’s ‘Galacticos’ trailing in their wake.
The second period of Laporta’s reign saw him put his faith in former player, Pep Guardiola, who had only coached the Barcelona B-team for one season. It was a faith that would be rewarded with interest as Guardiola built arguably the best club team the world has ever seen around Iniesta, Xavi, Leo Messi, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique and won every title it is possible to win in his first year in charge.
Laporta returns with the club deep in financial trouble, with a debt of around 1.17 billion euros that will limit his options in the transfer market and with the club’s image as low as it has been for decades after former president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested a week ago as part of the ‘Barcagate’ scandal into the misuse of club funds.
Meanwhile, Messi’s contract expires at the end of the season, while Busquets and Pique are 13 years older than when Guardiola took charge.
Nevertheless, there is a new optimism around the club, helped by the emergence of young players such as Pedri, Illax Moriba and Oscar Mingueza. The press is already speculating about moves for Manchester City’s Kun Aguero and David Alaba in the summer.
Laporta’s campaign, which included a massive banner hung from a building next to Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, also showed fans that he would not be willing to allow Madrid an easy ride.
After years of ‘greyness’ and slow decline under Bartomeu, Laporta will bring back some color and confidence to the club.
Barca have also seen their fortunes improve on the pitch, with a 3-0 win over Sevilla a week ago to take them into the Copa del Rey final, followed by a 2-0 victory in Pamplona to climb into second place in La Liga.
It’s unlikely that Barca will be able to overturn the 4-1 defeat they suffered against PSG three weeks ago, given that Ronald Koeman’s side would have to score four goals and keep Kylian Mbappe quiet for 90 minutes to go through. But a positive result in Paris would keep the ‘feelgood factor’ on the rise ahead of next Monday’s league game at home to bottom of the table Huesca. Although Barca’s European ambitions would be over, their domestic hopes are rising by the day. Enditem