x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Drama at Barcelona extends beyond the pitch

Champions League draw does Catalan giants no favours

Sandro Rosell, the Barcelona president, is under pressure amid dropping attendance at Camp Nou and a perceived slip in the club's place in the European pecking order. Karim Jaafar / AFP
Sandro Rosell, the Barcelona president, is under pressure amid dropping attendance at Camp Nou and a perceived slip in the club's place in the European pecking order. Karim Jaafar / AFP

Sandro Rosell’s job as president of Barcelona is like no other. He has to deal with issues that every club president faces, yet must also contend with shifting plates of power and political rivals posturing to take over his mantel. And unlike Florentino Perez and Real Madrid, Rosell is not one of the richest men in Spain.

Rosell is regarded as a good president, yet former players, directors and presidents have all taken public swipes against him.

Fortunately, he could find solace in watching Barca play. They usually won and played magnificent football. They are winning as usual this season, but fans are unconvinced by the club’s style and attendances are slipping: only 66,000 were inside Camp Nou against Villarreal on Saturday night, 14,000 down from last season’s average crowd.

The Uefa Champions League draw against Manchester City was greeted with disquiet in Catalonia. Three years ago, it would have been relished, but the conviction that Barca can overcome City is lacking and many fans hoped for a weaker opponent.

The difficulty for both teams on the field will be matched off it. City are led by several former Barca employees, like the director of football Txiki Begiristain and the chief executive Ferran Soriano. Begiristain is on good terms with his former club, but Soriano and Rosell do not get on and have had well-publicised disagreements.

If normal etiquette is followed, the pair will have to sit side by side at both games. Not every camera will be trained on the pitch.

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