BARCELONA (AP) – Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu resigned Tuesday, in the aftermath of his conflict with Lionel Messi and following one of the club’s worst seasons in more than a decade.
When he left, Bartomeu left a new controversy sown, with the revelation that the Catalan club seeks to join what would be a new Super League of elite teams.
Bartomeu announced at a press conference that his entire board of directors also resigned, thus avoiding proceeding with a vote of no confidence scheduled for the next few weeks.
The leader wanted the consultation to be delayed, arguing that the worsening of the coronavirus pandemic put the health of the more than 110,000 club members who could participate at risk. But the government of the region authorized to proceed with the consultation.
“We cannot and do not want to place ourselves before the position of having to choose between the protection of health and the exercise of the right to vote. And that is why we made the decision not to call the vote and immediately resign from our duties, ”said Bartomeu.
More than 20,000 Barcelona members signed a petition for Bartomeu and his board to be submitted to a motion of censure.
The signatures were collected shortly after the crisis generated by Messi’s request to leave the club for free, following the humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, a result that capped the first season. Without titles for the Catalans since 2007-08.
Messi criticized the club’s board of directors the previous season, and expressed his distaste for the direction the club was taking. Bartomeu, the Argentine star reproached him for not keeping his word to let him go free at the end of the campaign.
On Monday, Bartomeu said he had explained to Messi and his family that he could not allow the best player to leave before the expiration of his contract, which runs until the end of this season.
Regarding his own resignation, the leader had also said that it had not crossed his mind.
“It is a considered, serene decision, consulted and agreed by all the comrades,” said Bartomeu, who criticized the government of Catalonia.
“Some decisions apart from incomprehensible, seem irresponsible to me.” It’s a strong qualifier, but it’s what I think. At a time when the Generalitat (the government) is taking decisions and insinuating the confinement of the weekend due to the risk of collapsing the health system ”.
A management board headed by Carles Tusquets, the current president of the club’s economic commission, will assume the direction in order to convene within a maximum of three months.
After the elimination against Bayern, Bartomeu announced profound changes in the club and called for new elections for next March. On Tuesday, he explained that the resignation did not come then, because he had to take relevant measures.
“After the elimination in ‘Champions’, the easiest thing was to leave. The easiest thing was to resign. But from the day after that very painful defeat, urgent decisions had to be taken … fundamental to guarantee the sporting future and the immediate sustainability of the club ”, he assured. “And furthermore, it had to be done in the midst of an unprecedented global crisis as a consequence of the pandemic we are experiencing. We could not leave the club in the hands of a management board with limited powers ”.
Bartomeu said that one of his last calls before resigning was precisely to approve the European Super League. With this, growing reports about a new European competition gained momentum, where elite clubs could face each other more frequently.
Currently, the UEFA Champions League is the highest-level tournament played by the main clubs at the continental level. It was not clear from Bartomeu’s comments who would organize the Super League or if that competition would in fact replace the Champions League.
“The Board of Directors has approved the acceptance of the requirements to participate in a future European Football Club Super League, a project promoted by the big clubs in Europe,” Bartomeu announced. “The details of these requirements will be available to the next Board of Directors, and the decision on participation in this competition must be ratified by the next Assembly of Committing Members”.