Supporting Barcelona can often best be described as a rollercoaster ride, but 2020 has surpassed anything that’s ever gone before.
The constant stream of bile coming out of the four walls has been embarrassing to say the least, and no one has really come out of it well.
Let’s start with the removal of Ernesto Valverde and subsequent appointment of Quique Setien.
Sacking your coach when he’s top of the league takes a special kind of individual. Whatever justification Josep Maria Bartomeu believed he had for wielding the axe, the fact is it came a minimum of six months too late.
In this column at the beginning of the campaign, I stood behind Valverde, and I’ll retain that position, but the fact of the matter remains that if the Barca board had any doubts before the campaign began, which it appears they did, then last summer was the appropriate time to act.
That comedy of errors was just the aperitif before the starter. A haphazard and disjointed recruitment drive to secure either Xavi or Ronald Koeman led to leaks in the press, and Eric Abidal’s assertion that, in Xavi’s case, it was just a meeting of old friends fooled nobody.
Quique Setien’s eventual hire wasn’t without merit as many cules had demanded long before this season that the Cantabrian be given the reins. Another PR own goal came when Setien admitted he was in a field full of cows when he got the call, which was totally at odds with Barca’s version of events. At the present time, the jury remains out on him too.
Abidal’s assertion shortly afterwards that ‘many players’ didn’t pull their weight under Valverde and thus contributed to his downfall, led to Leo Messi going on the offensive as a result. The captain didn’t just stick the knife in, but twisted it before yanking it back out again. That body blow resonated around the world and Barca were headline news for all the wrong reasons yet again.
Messi after Abidal said Valverde was sacked because of the players: “Everyone has to be responsible for their job...when you speak about players, you should give names. If you don't, you're tarnishing everyone and feeding things that are said that aren’t true." pic.twitter.com/b2alRq1rNE— Tom Allnutt (@TomAllnuttAFP) February 5, 2020
Then came the main course. ‘Barcagate.’
Bartomeu stood accused of hiring I3 Ventures to smooth over his image while also trying to demonise and belittle the likes of Messi and Gerard Pique. The fall out of the same is still ongoing at the time of writing, but the resignations of six board members en masse together with allegations of corruption - something that’s followed Bartomeu’s former boss, Sandro Rosell, around like a bad smell - has left a huge question mark over the conduct of those that run the club.
Incessant rumours of wanting to sign Neymar and Lautaro Martinez whilst getting rid of as many as 11 squad players depending on which outlet you believe, has long since proved to be entertaining, an the ‘noise’ surrounding incomings and outgoings has me constantly reaching for the off switch.
Did I mention Setien apologising for Eder Sarabia’s perfectly legitimate pitch side outbursts?!
On top of everything, the coronavirus has hit the club at the worst possible time. Bartomeu and his board’s preference for throwing money at everything had already left the club in a precarious enough position.
Don’t forget, the new Camp Nou should actually have been finished next year, and whether it even gets started by then looks unlikely at present.
Asking the team to accept a 70 percent cut in their salaries is clearly necessary, but if the board hadn’t mortgaged themselves to the hilt in every way possible in the first place, then perhaps the financial hit for the players wouldn’t have needed to be so great.
The worst possible news of course is that we’ve another year of this before Bartomeu rides off into the sunset. There’s every chance he will try to go out with a bang too, with no thought given to who is coming in behind him.
That poor soul will be left with a club likely in ruins, and face the almost insurmountable task of getting us back on our feet again.