It’s official. Josep Maria Bartomeu will be FC Barcelona’s president through 2021. He demolished his main rival, former president Joan Laporta, by 21 points.
This result was absolutely unthinkable back in January, when it looked like Laporta was going to walk the elections given all the problems that Bartomeu was having. But since then Barca managed to win the treble, so things are looking up.
Winning the treble was the only hope that Bartomeu had to hold on to a presidency that seemed like it was crumbling under the weight of a series of judicial investigations. Secure in the knowledge that the treble gave him a huge advantage, he ran a very safe campaign, looking to stay out of the fray and never engaging Laporta in the head-on battle that Laporta so craved.
Laporta’s efforts ended up falling flat. His supporters are probably more ardent than Bartomeu’s, and the reaction on social media was ferocious. But while basically no one is a staunch Bartomeu supporter, after managing to guide the club out of the storm and win the treble, the silent majority of fans felt he deserved the presidency.
Laporta’s concession speech was quintessentially Laportian. He said, “we tried to have a club where the president wasn’t under investigation, a club that wasn’t totally controlled by Qatar, that the Masia wasn’t totally destroyed … but we weren’t able to achieve it.”
Sore loser if there ever was one.
And that’s always going to be Laporta’s main problem. Despite being a charismatic leader who achieved phenomenal success and elevated Barça to another level, he’s just so freaking annoying. He can’t seem to get out of his own way sometimes, and was more focused on picking fights than on selling the people on his record and his vision for the future. In the end, people just didn’t rally behind him.
Some big names cast their votes. Xavi and Carles Puyol flew in from Ibiza, voted, and flew right back. Everyone assumes they voted for Laporta, but the fact that they would interrupt their vacation to vote shows just how strong the democratic tradition is at Barça. Gerard Piqué, Andrés Iniesta, and Luis Enrique also voted. Sergio Busquets and Leo Messi, the two other captains, did not (despite being in Barcelona).
Bartomeu will finally be able to preside with a real mandate. He’s never really had that because he was never voted in — he took over when Sandro Rosell stepped down. Laporta’s supporters will still make his life difficult, because they have some fundamentally different views and they are very passionate. But Bartomeu won with an outright majority, and he will hold on to that.
Unless of course he goes to jail.