La Liga President Javier Tebas gave a very revealing interview with Spanish paper El Mundo (not to be confused with the Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo) in which he stated Barcelona, and other Catalan clubs such as Espanyol, may not play in La Liga if Catalonia gains independence.
I will do what the law tells me to do: They cannot play in the Spanish League. If football represents national cohesion and Catalonia are no longer Spain, the Catalan clubs may not play in what is left of Spain.
Tebas has essentially made it seem like his hands are tied and he would just follow the rules. What he fails to mention is the rules do not allow for clubs from an independent Catalonia to play in Spain because, well, there is no independent Catalonia at the moment, so there's no need to account for it in the rules.
There's no logical reason the rules can't be changed if there's a need to change them. The Spanish football system already takes in teams from other countries. For example, FC Andorra, a team from the country of Andorra, plays in the Catalan league, which is a part of the Spanish football pyramid.
Of course, there are other examples of teams from other countries playing first-division football around Europe. AS Monaco plays in Ligue 1, and the Welsh team Swansea City plays in the English Premier League.
Tebas is opposed to Catalan independence from a political point of view, but fracturing La Liga for political reasons would be nearly incomprehensible when the football and monetary side dictate a much more rational solution.
It is worth mentioning while on the topic that Tebas is a self-confessed Real Madrid supporter. It's not surprising that Barcelona fans would question his wisdom given the topic.
It is not in the best interest of the Spanish FA, Barcelona, Real Madrid, any other club, or really anyone bar the French League for Barcelona to leave Spain. The biggest draw and biggest source of revenue is El Clasico, and getting to host it at least twice a year is a financial juggernaut.
Plus, La Liga would be replacing Barcelona (not to mention Espanyol) with 2 minnows from Liga Adelante. Which do you think generates more money for say, Levante? A visit to their stadium from Lionel Messi and company or from Leganés, all due respect?
Meanwhile, the French League would not be so petty and would surely see the benefit of having a team to rival Paris Saint-Germain in their ranks. Currently, French football is a bit boring with PSG winning just about every game without breaking a sweat. Giving them an opponent that is actually better than them wouldn't solve everything, but it would be a massive step.
The French League would lose a PSG-Troyes and gain a PSG-Barcelona. And La Liga would lose El Clasico and replace it with Real Madrid-Alaves. Which one would you rather watch? That's not even getting into coefficients and the like. Money talks.
Speaking of France, Tebas also had some thoughts on controversial French politician Jean-Marie Le Pen:
At times, I feel like we are missing a Spanish version of Le Pen. Above all, because of the national identity of Spain, which is not being properly defended by the parties.
Le Pen is a far-right politician in France. To give you an idea of what his policies are, he recently endorsed Donald Trump for President of the United States.
Le Pen, like Trump, make strong pushes for nationalism. This nationalism in Spanish politics means a degree of homogeneity that is concerning to people from places like Catalonia and the Basque country, that have strong cultural identities apart from a Spanish one.
It's especially worrying because it wasn't too long ago when the central Spanish government was repressive of these identities. Barcelona's slogan of "more than a club" directly ties into the fact that Catalan culture and language were legally banned during this dark period, and the football club was seen as somewhat of a safe heaven for representing Catalan cultural identity.
The ghost of Francisco Franco, a fascist dictator who ruled Spain for about 40 years, ending in 1973, looms over places like Catalonia as a reminder of what can happen. Now that you know the history, back to the topic at hand.
This isn't a Catalan or Barcelona issue alone, either, it has to be said. The manager of Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane, has priors with Le Pen.
Of course, Zidane was a French national team star who captained the team to their only World Cup win in 1998.
Zidane is of Algerian ancestry, and his World-Cup winning team was made of players from diverse ethnic backgrounds. It was a nice story for France, which was becoming more multicultural. Le Pen, however, was not pleased.
Le Pen called Zidane "a son of French Algeria," a loaded term which sought to portray him as a traitor to his home country.
A Le Pen surrogate then declared Zidane's father a "harki," an Algerian who fought for the French against Algeria. Zidane always refuted such a claim, saying his dad was always proud to be Algerian, but the claim gained notoriety. During a French-Algeria friendly, which was meant to be a reconciliation and celebration of shared past, some Algerian fans jeered Zidane for his supposed harki heritage. The French and Algerian fans clashed. The pitch was invaded and the match was abandoned. Harmony was temporarily derailed.
Le Pen said the French World Cup winners were "unworthy," and didn't even know the words to the national anthem. Zidane fired back that their 1998 World Cup win was "the most beautiful response to intolerance" and said that singing the national anthem or simply "living it silently" had no bearing on a player's patriotism.
Zidane urged voters to reject the politician when Le Pen reached the second round of the French presidential elections of 2002. Jacques Chirac ultimately won the race.
Tebas also recognized he was part of the Fuerza Nueva, a political party generally recognized as extremely right-wing (though Tebas disputes the "extreme" part of the label.) Tebas went on to say that by and large, he still believes the same things today as he did then.
I don't want to argue political policies in this venue, but it is worth asking why the president of La Liga feels the need to talk Le Pen up. The question is, why is Tebas making his feelings on such a divisive and controversial political leader known? And how does that bode for the future of Spanish and Catalan football?