Josep Bartomeu: What were his biggest mistakes at Barcelona?

Josep Bartomeu

For fans of Barcelona, they can now rejoice; the day has finally arrived. 

No, Lionel Messi hasn't signed a new contract, nor have they won a trophy, but instead Josep Bartomeu has resigned from his role as president.

The Spaniard's time in Catalonia was merely a ticking timebomb and now his stay at Camp Nou has at last come to an end. 

Barcelona supporters have been left enraged by a number of highbrow issues and affairs that have come to light under Bartomeu and consequently, he's paid the price. 

He and the rest of the board all left the club on Tuesday after 20,000 members signed a petition for Bartomeu and his colleagues to face a censure vote. Thus, he did the honours himself and left before he officially received the boot.

For the 57-year-old, his exit comes as no surprise. Since he walked into Camp Nou in 2014, Barcelona have looked a shadow of their former selves.

Some catastrophic mistakes have been made and after the Messi saga last summer, it was only going to end one way for the ex-president. 

Bartomeu and Ronald Koeman

So, what were his biggest errors at Barca and where did it all go wrong? We went back through the last six years to find out.

Breaking Messi's trust 

We start front and centre with probably one of the greatest mistakes we've seen in modern football; upsetting Messi. The whole saga surrounding the diminutive Argentine has been talked about plenty and ultimately, that's why Bartomeu no option but to leave.

Messi has always been very introverted but this summer he showed his anger and the Argentine found himself involved in the politics of the club. After a number of niggling issues all steamrolled into the 8-2 defeat against Bayern Munich, Messi came out and handed in a transfer request. What happened afterwards subsequently cost Bartomeu his job.

There had been a huge breakdown in trust between the two, with the ex-president refusing to let his star player leave. That was understandable, but the legal complications that came with it put Barca's ex-president in trouble.

Lionel Messi

When Messi last signed a contract, there was an agreement in place that he could leave at the end of every season for free if he wished. Now, in a normal year, the winger would have had until June 10th to tell the club if he was leaving or not.

However, the argument from Messi's camp was that because La Liga extended into August due to COVID-19, the season hadn't actually finished and he had a far greater window in which to make a decision.

Unfortunately, Barca did not agree with that suggestion and Messi remained in Spain. This was a case of what Messi deemed as a broken promise.

I3 ventures saga

This was a perplexing case, one that again caused the downfall of Bartomeu. According to reports in Spain, Barcelona hired a PR firm - I3 Ventures - to protect the club's president on social media. It was also thought that the accounts set up were aimed at attacking the likes of Carles Puyol, Xavi and Messi. 

Marca believed that close to 100 accounts were created on both Facebook and Twitter, an operation that was thought to have cost them €1m. Not only did the subsequent social media posts attack past and current players, but they also brought the player's families into the equation.

This wasn't great in the first place, but it looks even worse when you consider just how much Barca paid for the service. Bartomeu was consequently accused of corruption after paying six times the market value.

Bartomeu and Griezmann

Not focusing on La Masia

Barcelona's famous La Masia is what most of the club's success has been built on over the last 15 years or so. With Guardiola in charge, he had a team filled with stars that came through the academy. Think Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Puyol and Sergio Busquets, all of which came from La Masia.

They made up the spine of the great team that won multiple trophies under Pep but after Bartomeu arrived, he neglected the need for up and coming talent.

Instead, he wasted over £1bn on a failed transfer policy, overspending considerably during a period where Barca won the Champions League just once and were consistently outshone by rivals Real Madrid on the biggest stage.

Barcelona's La Masia

Disrespecting Cruyff 

Johan Cruyff is a Barcelona legend and will remain so until the end of time. He is the man responsible for the tiki-taka style of play so famed with Barca and he was also important in establishing La Masia. However, the Dutchman and Bartomeu never saw eye to eye.

Cruyff may have had a stadium named after him as a tribute following his death, but the fact of the matter is that Barca's ex-president neglected much of his Cruyff values.

Speaking about the situation in 2017, his nephew Jordi Anjauma said: "This board have changed the criteria of the La Masia and the idea that the youth players are the basis for the first team, which is no longer the case.

Anjauma continued: "Bartomeu did not treat Cruyff well when he was alive, they could have got a lot more benefit from him. He was always ready to help but we all know the famous situation that existed with Sandro Rosell and this board, there was a wall that did not benefit the club and they did not allow Cruyff to help." 

Barcelona's Johan Cruyff stadium

Selling Neymar

Now, Neymar did want to leave Barcelona but if Bartomeu had been as ruthless as he has been with Messi, a whole host of on-field issues could have been avoided. Neymar had been unhappy about being in Messi's shadow and as a result, joined PSG in a deal that saw the biggest transfer fee of all time spent - £200m.

The Catalan giants still had 2/3 of MSN left but they lacked a cutting edge and element of flair with the Brazilian gone. Messi wanted Neymar back in 2019 but was left rather unhappy with the club's efforts to re-sign him. 

The perception was that Bartomeu didn't want Neymar and merely wanted to be seen as trying to bring him back, rather than actually lodging official attempts. Perhaps keeping the winger or even bringing him back would have been a sweetener for Messi in contract negotiations. This would come back to haunt Bartomeu.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar

Spending big on Dembele

Reflecting on Ousmane Dembele's time at Barca, it has been a disastrous state of affairs. The Frenchman had only had one campaign at Borussia Dortmund when he was brought in by the Spanish outfit for an initial fee of £96.8m.

Since 2017, he has played more than 30 times in a season just once and has missed 80 matches through injury. In total, that's a period of 512 days on the treatment table. Not great whatsoever.

Ousmane Dembele at Barcelona

Calling out Dani Alves

This was another baffling saga to add to Bartomeu's collection. The 57-year-old has been a very outspoken figure at Camp Nou but with Dani Alves, he should have kept his mouth shut. 

The Brazilian wing-back enjoyed a hugely successful spell with Barca but left the club behind to great controversy. Alves was contracted until the summer of 2017 but left on a free a year before because of what Bartomeu perceived to be family issues between Alves and his wife. However, the defender called him a liar on social media and thus, there is now animosity between the pair. 

Barca fans haven't forgiven Bartomeu for disrespecting one of their most successful players.

Dani Alves celebrates at Barcelona

Coutinho's transfer fee

We've touched on the ex-president's awful transfer policy multiple times in this piece but there is no larger example than Philippe Coutinho.

The Brazilian is a wonderful player to watch but in paying £142m for him, they haven't got their money's worth at all. Coutinho is back in favour under Ronald Koeman but he spent last season on loan at Bayern Munich. If that wasn't bad enough, he even scored against Barca in the Champions League.

That just about summed up the messy affairs at the club. 

Philippe Coutinho Barcelona pre-season

Destroying the wage bill

Barcelona are one of the wealthiest clubs around but Bartomeu has completely destroyed the wage structure at the club. Instead of relying on La Masia, he has been handing out considerable fees to pretty average players. Ivan Rakitic was on a ridiculous £150k-a-week before going back to Sevilla while Arturo Vidal earned a weekly salary of £165k. 

The ever-injured Dembele is on £220k and to make matters even worse, Jean-Clair Todibo earns around £184k. They really are baffling numbers. 

Ivan Rakitic

Martin Braithwaite saga

What on earth was happening when Bartomeu agreed this deal? Braithwaite was struggling to score goals at Championship side Middlesbrough a few years ago but now he finds himself in Barcelona colours as their number nine.

The club caused controversy earlier this year when instead of relying on a young player as injury cover, were allowed by La Liga to make an emergency signing. If anything summed up Barca's shambolic recruitment with Bartomeu at the helm, this was it. 

Bartomeu and Braithwaite

Appointing Quique Setien

This one is probably quite harsh but at the end of the day, it was Setien's appointment that led to poor results and increased scrutiny on Bartomeu.

He was never going to come out of the Bayern defeat unscathed and after being sacked in the summer, became the first Barca coach since Radomir Antic in 2003 not to win a trophy.

Sorry, Quique. 

Quique Setien at Barcelona

European Super League endorsement

For the good of football and the UEFA Champions League, this could be a decision that has potentially disastrous consequences. After Bartomeu resigned from his role at Barca he had one last big surprise for us all.

He said: "I can announce some extraordinary news. Yesterday we accepted a proposal to participate in a future European superleague, which would guarantee the future financial sustainability of the club." 

Bartomeu & Coutinho

Now, in terms of finances for Barca, it's a good decision, but that's about the only positive of this decision. Bartomeu disclosed that it would have to be ratified through an AGM but even after he's left, the club is still feeling the effects of his reign.

You sense it will take the Blaugrana some time to right the wrongs of Bartomeu's time as president.

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