Barcelona Interviews

Bartomeu’s exclusive interview with Mundo Deportivo

Photo credit: Francesc Adelantado
Photo credit: Francesc Adelantado

FC Barcelona’s president gave a detailed interview to Mundo Deportivo, where he talks about Champions League, Setién, Messi’s contract renovation, and more.

Whether Barcelona is one of the favorites to win the Champions League: “Yes, Barça is always favorite in every competition they play, and that includes Champions League as well, especially seeing this winning spirit and competitive eagerness of our players, it is a very suitable moment to return and make another demonstration of talent and ambition.”

About players and coach: “The self-criticism has been done in the past few days and I think it has helped to lift the spirit of the team for the Champions League. I am very happy with the self-criticism which has been done by the players and coaching staff.”

If he has done self-criticism: “Yes, we do that constantly. The good thing is that you learn a lot of things from it and Barça, due to the latest crisis, has come out stronger and more united than ever. I hope that this new feeling of unity before a new challenge like the Champions takes effect. Barça is always a favorite and you have to respect the players because they play at a very high level and we have the best in the world, Leo Messi. So together, they can win it. They have shown us during the final stages of the League that they have had very good matches or halves. Therefore, there are all kinds of possibilities. But, yes, Naples first and this match is the key. No one here talks about Lisbon. The Game against Naples is the most important.”

Doubts over Setién’s continuity: “No, at no moment there were doubts about his continuity. Simply put, the coach and the players must talk to each other which they have done it already and despite not winning the League, which would have been spectacular 9 of 12 after an 8 of 11, which is already a record, but you have to look ahead. There was a rival, Madrid, who beat us but it is also true that the management of the VAR was not the most adequate in this last section of the league and the best league in the world deserves a better VAR management system.”

If Barcelona would have been the champions with better VAR management: “I don’t want to talk about this. The referees have done self-criticism. It is good that they admit it, of course, there will be errors, but the VAR management does not match with what is expected from a league like La Liga.”

Problem with the VAR: “It’s the management. The VAR is a very powerful tool and in the same or similar situations, there have been different decisions for different teams. It is the comparative tort. Refereeing has improved but there is still a way to go.”

If there is before and after impact on the VAR due to Florentino’s call to Rubiales: “I do not know if that call existed or not and I wish it did not exist because otherwise, we would have a problem in the world of football.”

If Tebas should resign due to the ‘Fuenlabrada case’: “This topic and more that come out around of LaLiga must be studied and asked in depth, I read many things about Tebas and his family and I wish that they are not true because if not, there would be an ethical problem that must be solved. The consequences must be reached and if there have been some situations, the clubs should take action. All the clubs have been very responsible taking care of everyone’s health and if someone has not followed the instructions of the health authorities and has made a mistake, it is necessary to go all the way.”

About the measures which he is referring to: “At Barça, we have a Code of Ethics, according to which no high-level manager or executive of the club can put a family member or others up to the third-grade work in the club or companies. I think it is a good measure to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations. If this occurs in LaLiga, the clubs should urgently review the codes of conduct and ethics.”

If Xavi’s appointment for the next season is ruled out: “I have an excellent relationship with Xavi and we talk about many topics. But next year, Quique Setién has a contract and he is the one we have hired. I trust him and his team. He is very clear about the game model and the style of Barça. He is a veteran with experience and good psychology and the fact that they have self-criticized reaffirms what I think of him, that he can win the Champions League and move forward next season.”

About the meeting between Setién and Messi which went on for an hour: “This should be asked to them. They held the meeting in the training camp, but neither Setién nor Messi have explained the contents of the meeting to me and it belongs to their privacy. It is great that the coach communicates with his players, exchange opinions. This unites the group. Besides, Messi is the captain and represents the entire group.”

About the meeting between him and Messi: “I do not like to explain what I talk to the players, but I maintain a continuous and fluid relationship with the players and especially with the four captains.”

Messi’s words after losing the league: “I see him as a player who is ambitious, who wants to win. That day Madrid won the League and he expressed the rage of not winning it. In the cold, Leo already sees that the team is fine, and that he must work and when it is the time for self-criticism, he speaks as a captain in a way to work for the Champions League.”

If Barcelona has lacked something to win the League: “Regularity in this final stage. We have had two or three games with an excellent 90 minutes and others with only an excellent 45 minutes and others not so much. There has been a lack of continuity and that’s why the draws took place.”

If Barcelona has left Messi alone at the transfer level, with reference to the transfers made by Barcelona in recent years: “He has never been left alone. The season is always planned with an idea to make a competitive team with talent and clear ideas around the best footballer in history.”

If he would again sign all the players he has signed so far: “Of course. There have been players following Neymar’s departure like Dembélé, who has had bad luck with injuries. Let’s see how it evolves after this injury. I am very happy, he is very young, with a lot of talent and he will explode at Barça when he has no injuries. And another player is Coutinho, of undeniable quality, established, a leader in Brazil and Liverpool but he could not adapt to Barça. Now when he returns from the loan, we will see how he evolves.”

If the coaches have any say in the signings of the club: “Of course. The board members may have a say in one or other things related to the economic part but the final proposal is always with the opinions of everyone on the board, including the coach.”

If it is possible that there won’t be any signings due to the pandemic: “I already said that this would be a year of exchanges of players, in an interview with Santi Nolla at the Círculo Ecuestre. We already saw that there was/is a pandemic worldwide and that it would be a complex summer with player exchanges. We have recovered many with a reduction of wages and making ERTE’s. We had to close the shops and the museum, there were no sales of tickets. We also returned the part of the credit of the matches that have not been played. We lost a lot of money.”

2020-21 budget plans: “In our Strategic Plan, we had planned to enter 1,100 million and now we will enter 30% less due to Covid. I say this because if someone thinks that the pandemic has not affected Barça, they are wrong. It has affected all the big European clubs and Barça is a European club that makes the most money and has been affected. That makes this market a bit complex. So we can’t ask players to match their salaries to the club’s new income. It is incongruous.”

If Barcelona’s financial situation was bad even before the pandemic: “It is not true. We had a higher level of income than the other big clubs but on March 14 everything stopped and we had to adapt to the new situation. And despite the reductions, we will continue to be the revenue leader. The club’s debt level is not very high. When the audit ends in mid-August, the economic vice president Jordi Moix will explain it and we will see that we are at normal debt levels. But there will be a closure with a Covid effect, which will surely be negative, and another without Covid, which would be positive. And it is the obligation from the League and UEFA to close it with and without the Covid effect.”

If football will change after the pandemic: “The effect will last for 2-3 more seasons to come.  Club stores are open but the sales are negligible. The average number of daily visitors to the Museum last week was 130-150. Medium and small clubs are not affected so much because they live on TV rights and not on commercial income. And here, we have to thank the main sponsors such as Rakuten, Nike, and Beko, who continue to support the club by behaving in an exemplary way and without wanting to renegotiate.”

If the return of La Liga was a success and if Barcelona is in favor to play the matches with fans: “There was a social and economic issue, although it has not benefited or harmed us, we have made an oasis to regain normality, but the non-attendance of the public hurts. It was sad. And yes, within what the current regulations allow, creating clean and safe spaces. People must come back with certain percentages and with social distancing.”

Messi’s renovation: “Messi has said many times that he wants to retire here and I do not doubt that he will renew.”

Ter Stegen’s renewal and salary situation: “Marc-André ter Stegen is a high-quality goalkeeper and he has a solid personality. He is very young and already in the elites. At 28 he is one of the best in the world.”

He understands what is happening in society and knows that given the decrease in income in clubs like Barça, he must adjust his salary. All the players are doing it and we are working on it.”

If there are any plans to renew Suárez’s contract: “Luis has a contract that, depending on the number of games he plays, automatically gets renewed for the 2021-22 season.”

On Sandro Rosell’s words on ‘Barcelona squad having too much command’: “I know Sandro very well and I know what he means. We always ask the players and captains for their opinion and also executives from different areas. But in the end, the last decision is always made by the board of directors.”

About many youngsters joining Barcelona in next season: “Yes, we already have seven new players. In January, Barça made a series of bets for the future and since we made them, people are seeing the quality they have. Pedri, who is a young player with incredible talent. Trincao, who was very unknown, we signed him in January and he is already the best U-21 in Europe. And Matheus Fernandes has been doing quite well in Valladolid. And Pjanic is a player who will surely come and make an impact in the first team. It is very exciting to see Barça B players coming up. From Araujo, center-back who will surely have a role for the first team, Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati.”

About Riqui, Fati and Araujo: “For these players, due to their evolution and current training, they have to have a first-team record. I think it is good news for Barcelona that La Masia has started bringing players to the first team again. We also have very good players like Collado and Monchu, who have a very good future.”

On Iñaki Peña: “He was a key during the penalty shootout against Badajoz. He trains continuously with the first team and has a future at Barça. But he has Ter Stegen, one of the best goalkeepers in the world, and Neto, who also has a very high level. But Iñaki must continue with his training project at Barça, either at B or as a third goalkeeper or on loan.”

About when will be the elections: “In 2021. It will be very irresponsible to take the elections now when the club has been affected by the pandemic just like other big clubs of Europe.”

If he thinks that there is a rush in some sectors to have the elections now: “From what I read and hear, yes, but now, with this pandemic, you have to remain calm to do a good job and to be sustainable. The unforeseen reduction in revenue affects the entire club, not just the players. For example, Espai Barça. Now, with this pandemic, we have focused only on the Camp Nou because the Palau and the offices will already be done. But it is the one that will generate more income.”

If the Espai Barça can still be financed due to the pandemic: “Yes, we have a bank like Goldman Sachs that, despite the pandemic, continues to trust Barça to carry out this project and sees it as feasible. They have money ready to give us so that we can renovate the Estadi. They lend us the money without guarantees or mortgages because they believe in a project. Financial institutions continue to trust Barça and we continue to reach agreements with them. It is not a board project but a club project. It is essential that Barça renovate its stadium if we want to continue being the best club in the world. The new stadium will need the next board of directors.”

If the ‘title rights’ agreement is close:  “We are very close and we are talking to two international companies based in Catalonia. I look forward to announcing it when the Champions League ends. Barça is the only club in the world that decides to give up a commercial income to fight against Covid despite the situation. There is no maximum or minimum amount of money. Success is assured.”

About the judicial triumphs: “Yes, for a few years we have been closing folders in our favor. MCM was asking us for 100 million for the facade of La Masia and we won that case. The Neymar issue was worrying but the TAS gave the result in our favor with the Santos lawsuit. Mediapro owed us money for a contract and we won it, also with the dismissal on the subject of espionage. In total, 218 million euros were requested.”

About the social media audit: “Nobody made messages against the players and above all, there is no corruption. Therefore, I am very calm. Yes, I have been concerned that this supplier still has to work on lots of things and we have asked him to complete his work.”

“Of course, questioning the ethics and professionalism of Barça executives and employees is out of place and that is why we have taken a judicial initiative, which is a criminal complaint.”

About bot attacks and if it has something to do with the upcoming elections:

“It already happened in May 2019 and there are concerns that there are a series of messages from bots and that they are trying to damage the club’s reputation in an organized way. And it is our obligation that the reputation of the club is safeguarded. That is why we have taken that report from Deloitte to the Prosecutor’s Office so that they can investigate accordingly. We will get to the end. It is unacceptable that the Barça brand is discredited in this way.”

“I don’t know, it could be, but the election year is 2021 and not 2020. Maybe in 2021, there will be more massive attacks.”

About other sections of Barcelona and if there will be any signings there: “Yes, to bring in young players has always been a priority, even for the women’s team. The confidence in the coaches is maximum. And in basketball, I want to thank the work done by Pesic, who won two Cups and is the man who has re-excited the Palau. The fans were unaware of the basketball team but due to the work done by Pesic, the interest has been re-generated.”

Regarding the decision of stopping women’s league: “It was a decision by the federation. It affected our Champions League preparation, which is now at the end of August. The point gap between first and second position teams was enough to decide the winner and moreover, we did not lose any game. Now it’s time to prepare for the Champions League and the objective is to play the final again.”

On Madrid’s women team: “It is good news, even if it is late, because it will surely act like men’s football and the Barça-Madrid rivalry will strengthen the competition, there will be more sponsors and the League will have more visibility. In fact, Madrid has already been in the League this year and we have beaten them both times (9-1 and 0-6).”