Since Joan Laporta returned as Barcelona president, the club’s local media have largely looked at him with adoring puppy eyes, hanging on his every word and responding to each faux pas with a ‘Oh, what is he like?!’ stance.
Not long after returning as the club’s president, Laporta set about the task of making Ronald Koeman’s life as miserable as possible. Repeated leaks, which looked absolutely coordinated, piled pressure on the Dutchman.
On May 28th, 2021, he told the Spanish media: “Yesterday he gave us a worrying scare. He had to go to the hospital. You already know that check-ups were done for a heart attack last year. Luckily he’s fine. I told him… don’t worry, we’re talking with absolute respect.”
That didn’t please De Telegraaf, with the Dutch newspaper talking of a ‘dirty war’ to force the manager out with minimal compensation, and clarifying his health situation: ‘Ronald Koeman has not been hospitalised at all, as Barcelona president Joan Laporta claims during the lunchtime press conference. The Dutch trainer is in perfect health on the plane to the Netherlands because he is visiting family there for a few days after a long period in Spain.
‘What inspired Laporta to tell such a negative story about Koeman’s health is a mystery. It can only indicate his umpteenth action to further damage the trainer, who won the cup with his club this season.
‘Koeman has been in hospital, but that involved the regular check-ups that he has every three months since his heart catheterisation. It is only a small check that fits in with the aftercare of everyone who has had a myocardial infarction.’
What is he like?!
This summer’s drama revolves around another Dutchman, step forward Frenkie de Jong.
Barcelona’s finances have faced many issues in recent years, which has seen them turn to ‘levers’. Yes, we’ve all heard about these remarkable levers which have enabled the Catalan club to bring some money in.
Pure and simple, these are loans. The club are trading income in the future for income now. They are bringing in quick money and paying it back through chunks of their future income.
The club’s compliant media can dress it up any way they want, this is no magic money tree and it will have a significant cost in the long run. But who cares about that when there’s Laporta cheerleading to be done and his message to be spread?
That message for De Jong, sent repeatedly via the Catalan media, has been: Drastically lower your salary or leave the club, those are the only two choices available.
Of course, there’s a third choice which is largely being ignored: Sit tight because it’s Barcelona’s problem. The club are contracted to pay the midfielder’s wages and they can’t force him out if he refuses.
Sure, threaten to put him in the stands for the season, but the club tried that trick with Ousmane Dembele and he simply ignored them and was never subject to the treatment which had been suggested.
Claims from some in the Catalan media are now getting so absurd that double takes are required. On Wednesday, Mundo Deportivo published an article headlined ‘Is Frenkie de Jong forced to take a pay cut?’
The sub-header was ‘The club can unilaterally reduce both the midfielder’s file and the rest of the players in the squad, in order to reduce salary mass.’
Mundo’s article explained that due to Spanish employment law there’s a way to force pay cuts on a workforce. How lovely.
However, towards the end of the article they explained that, according to the same law, one of the options open to De Jong and his teammates would be ‘Not accepting it and breaking the employment relationship, having the right to compensation of 20 days per year (with a maximum of 9 monthly payments) and the right to unemployment. The players in this case would be released, notifying it 15 days in advance, and could go to another club.’
A big headline which boils down to an extremely remote chance of a pay cut being imposed which could then allow De Jong to leave for free.
Not quite the evil genius it was presented as, then.
Today it’s Sport‘s turn to throw an arrow at the dartboard: ‘The new solution that opens up the problem with Frenkie de Jong.’
They explain the player is due a ‘significant salary increase’ next season, which it’s stated is just not sustainable at Barcelona, soooooooo… they could send him out on loan.
Sport then go on to say: ‘In this way, Barça would save his wages (all or most of them) and would solve, at least momentarily, one of the big blocks that it has to be able to register new signings. Said transfer would include a compulsory purchase option of 80 million euros.’
Barcelona believe they can loan Frenkie de Jong out to a club that will cover his inflated salary for next season, and force that club to pay the full asking price they’ve wanted all along? Amazing, let’s see how that one goes.
Maybe tomorrow one of the Catalan newspapers can come up with the idea of turning the Dutchman’s contract into a series of NFTs and have fans bid to pay a day of his wages to forever have a digital asset telling them they did so.
The lack of scrutiny from the club’s local media over what is going on right now, and the urge to instead act as an outsourced PR department, could eventually come back to bite.
Més que un club? Indeed.