The former sports vice president of Barça attends GOAL in the preview of the women’s Champions League final in Goteborg
Beyond stating that Neymar Jr would not leave Barça “at 200%” a few days before the Brazilian left for PSG and being the head of the signings in recent seasons, Jordi Mestre is one of the main ideologues of the Barça women’s team. During his time as sports vice-president, the club professionalized the section and made it grow until the team became a candidate to win the Champions League this coming Sunday against Chelsea in Goteborg.
In a talk with GOAL, the hotel businessman, who has had a very bad time during the harsh stage of the pandemic, analyze the keys to team growth and reflects on his time on the Barça board, first as a manager from 2010 to 2014 and then as sports vice president from 2014 to 2019. “Burns a lot”he admits.
It is the second final in three years. Do you consider it a personal success?
Yes, personally I am very proud that the team reached the second final. Especially because it is the culmination of a project that began ten or eleven years ago. Behind this final there is a lot of work, not only mine but many more people. If we look at the newspaper archive for 2010, the feminine one did not appear anywhere. Neither on radio, nor on television, nor in the written press. Reaching the final for the second time, with real chances of winning it, is a personal satisfaction.
Is the team closer to clubs like Olympique Lyonnais or Wolfsburg?
Yes, sure. And also if we look at budgets it has a lot of merit. I don’t know what budgets Lyon, Wolfsburg or PSG have, but recently they multiplied ours by four. We speak calmly of 10 million up. Competing against these teams with people from home and with some signings has a lot of merit. And it is no coincidence, it is now three or four years that we are proving to be among the top four teams in Europe.
Is Barça the favorite to win the Champions League?
We can win it. In the first final I saw it very complicated, there was a lot of difference between Olympique and us. This time I do think we have a lot more possibilities, although Chelsea have also grown a lot.
The base of the team is the same as four years ago. How has it grown so much?
It is a plus point. Most of the players know each other a lot and some have been at the club for many years, such as Marta, Melanie, Vicky or Alexia. They know each other not only on a football level but also on a personal level, which is something that facilitates the integration of players who come from abroad. Most are from home and seeing the growth they have not felt like trying outside.
The key is the professionalization of 2015?
Sure, it was an important moment. They had many more resources to grow, they trained in the mornings, we changed their diet and added technical staff. Physical preparation has been greatly improved and has been key to competing in Europe. In 2010 there were Xavi Llorens, Berta, a delegate and a physio. Nobody else. Now if you look at the bench, it’s full of people. This is noticeable on a day-to-day basis. Also on trips, because before they did it by coach and now they go by plane. The sum of all this has given an excellent result.
How was the transition between Xavi Llorens, Fran Sánchez and Lluís Cortés?
Each one has its merit. When we entered, Xavi Llorens had been around for a few years and that has a lot of merit, because the female team was totally abandoned. These are stages in which the merit of the coaches is to take the team and empower it. The one who stayed the least time was Fran, but the team always went the extra mile. With Fran there was a small descent, but with Lluís he again took a breath and grew.
The team professionalized in 2015, but then disconnected from LaLiga and who won it was Atlético de Madrid. How did you get back to competing and winning the championship?
There are different stages. At the beginning there was a clash of trend, of dynamics. There were many structural changes. We had to be patient, also in Fran’s stage, in which we had a little slump. But Lluís came in and we started over. The dynamics changed and we grew a lot to be where we are.
Has the presence of Real Madrid motivated Barça?
No, because Real Madrid is very recent. We already had a very consolidated and structured team. There has been no turning point. Also, I think it’s the other way around. Madrid is there for us, where we have arrived. I remember a meal with Florentino where he asked me what budget we had for women. Madrid has been in tow of the Barça women’s, for sure.
Do you miss being around the women’s team?
I still have contact with them. We don’t see each other, but we write to each other and I follow them a lot. When I left I spoke with the captains to say goodbye and to inquire about them. They know that whenever they need me they have me. I do not miss it, because when I decided to leave I did it with full consciousness and very convinced. On a personal and family level I won a lot, it cannot be compared, and on a professional level, with the hotel sector as it is, imagine that I would have had to be at Barça.
What do you mean that you won a lot on a personal level?
I gained in time and planning. Now I can plan weekends, of course, and vacations. Before you couldn’t. You made plans and something happened, because something always happens at Barça, and you had to dismantle it and return. This greatly affects the relationship with the family, even though they never hit me at all.
Better inside or outside?
Now, better off. Before the 2015 elections, with Anoeta’s party, we were sentenced. Then we went back and won the elections, but it was a very difficult time. Not as much as Bartomeu’s last. When I left they all asked me what had happened, but I already said it, I left for other reasons.
It is true that in January 2015 they were dead. What percentage would you give to intangibles for the success or failure of a board of directors at Barça?
It depends on how you look at it. For many members, fans and media, the good contributions of the board are practically nil. Instead, the bad is 100% of the board. This, when you are inside, if you do not mentalize you are lost. The board can tie at best, it will never win. He always loses and in the best of cases, draws. We know that meetings are rarely recognized, especially triumphs. We lost in Rome and Liverpool and it was the fault of the board, without playing or making the lineup. This is the game.
Did they wear out a lot?
It tastes bad, because you put in many hours without paying, you sacrifice family time and work. You are tired, because in my case we came back from many games at dawn and the next day I had to work early. And you don’t stop making changes to your schedule. This people do not see, but it is so. We are not professionals like in other clubs, where the tips all charge. In directive meals in the Champions League we commented on it and they did not believe it. All this tastes bad, because if the recognition were fair, perfect. But of course, it is not like that. Are occupational hazards.
Do you pay?
In the end no. At first look, because you enter the board, you are a culé of all your life and it makes a tremendous illusion. You do it with great enthusiasm and the experience is unique, to tell your grandchildren. But then after so many years, it’s okay. Burns a lot.
Wouldn’t I do it again?
Nerd. In fact, they asked me if I was going to run for president and I told them no joke. I have already been with two presidents. From manager to vice president and pringas, but the fact is that from vice president to president is exponential, there is a brutal difference.
What merit does Bartomeu have in the growth of the female?
It is wrong to say it, but who made the feminine take off is me. In 2010, on Sandro’s board, no one was interested in women. No one. But not only from the board, also people from outside that now appear. We went to the games and there were four of us and the corporal. There were always many more people from the opposing team. Then, when we started to play the Champions League, people began to come to the Mini. In 2015, if Bartomeu had told me not to do it professionally, we would not have done it. Its merit is to accept professionalization.
How is Bartomeu?
You already know that we have been close since we were 18 years old. He is the godfather of my second marriage. Also with Sandro, we are friends forever. It is calmer. He has had a very inhuman treatment. That they put him in the dungeon was very strong. But that’s what I was telling you, all the good we have done is not valued. We are the club of the decade, someone will have piloted it. Very good work has been done. What’s more, the day he resigned he already told about the Super League.
Why do you think the Super League has failed?
Because it has been very poorly explained. Pedagogy has not been done. It is a project that has to exist yes or yes. People have to know how FIFA and UEFA work. For example, in a Champions League match, the Camp Nou ceases to be Barça’s and becomes UEFA’s. We have to give them locations and parking spaces that belong to the members, obviously having to face us before them. That’s why the powerful clubs said it was over. It cannot be that the clubs put the structure and all the money goes to UEFA. It has all the logic in the world. But nothing has been explained well.
What do you think of the early days of Laporta?
We have to value it in the longer term. He has taken over the club at a difficult time, without an audience, with the pandemic, in the middle of the season. We cannot assess the management yet. We will have to assess it from the following season. Yes, it is true that there are things that have caught my attention, such as the guarantee. If I have always been clear about something, it is the endorsement. Sandro said it clearly, it is the board that has to endorse, not the president. We distributed the 60 million that they played and endorsed them. I was very surprised how they did it, because the amount was known and it was clear that it had to be guaranteed.
124 million may be more difficult to raise than 60.
Yes, sure, but you already knew that. Of course it is more difficult, I agree, but you already knew it before starting to mount the candidacy. And you can’t skip it. If LaLiga does not approve you, you are not president. In addition, his campaign was the banner of the Bernabé. I saw the message little worked, very superficial.
Didn’t you like Laporta’s campaign?
I saw her lazy, honestly. What happens is that he is a guy who has charisma, who draws a lot of people, what unconditional tea. He also has the support of many politicians, not like us. In Catalonia they told us that we were Spanishists and in Spain they told us that we were independentists.
Would you continue with Koeman?
Yes, I would give it one more year. It would not be fair because this season is very rare, he has not been able to plan well and has had up to three presidents. It cannot be valued much. He is a good coach and is a former player and symbol of ours. It is important to enter the dressing room and see a legend. It is not the same for Koeman or Luis Enrique to enter you than for Quique Setién to enter you, with all the affection and respect. This, with the wardrobe we have, is factor number one. Respect and hierarchy.
Would you renew Messi?
Yes, I would renew it. But I would speak very clearly with him before. I would ask you to help us make the team transition. And that he understands that if Suárez leaves or Piqué, Sergio and Jordi Alba leave, it is the law of life. If I were the president, I would tell you to help me transition into a new era. That he was the father of all. And obviously give him a plan almost retirement in the club.