x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Sandro Rosell's job is to keep Barcelona steady

The Spanish club's new president is making the noises that keep sponsors and fans happy.

Sandro Rosell, the Barcelona president, has gone from doing next to no media engagements, to being a voice for hire - usually in a country not far from here who have concluded a sponsorship deal with Barcelona.

Rosell's latest far ranging interview with Aljazeera, the Doha-based broadcaster, was part cringe inducing, with lines like: "Our aim is to become the club of the world's children" and boasts that "this season's Barcelona shirt is the most sold shirt in history in the world of sports," but also part fascinating insight into what the president of the world's best team is thinking.

He would like to see Spain's Primera Liga reduced from 20 to 18, then 16 teams, with the extra space freed up used by an expanded Champions League with twice as many teams as present. It is a step closer to a European Super League and Rosell speaks logically, albeit from the skewed viewpoint of what is best for Barcelona (and Real Madrid's) interests.

Some of Europe's best teams can go a decade without meeting each other. Manchester United and Barca did not meet between 1998 and 2008 for instance when fans of football would have loved to see them face off more often - the world's biggest and best teams pitted against each other being far more interesting than seeing Barca record another easy victory against a team operating on a budget a tenth their size.

Rosell is bright, intelligent and articulate. He is a popular president too, who has been careful not to make the foot in mouth mistakes of his predecessor Joan Laporta.

He also realises that Pep Guardiola, the manager, is the most important man at the club and lavishes him with praise.

Asked about Guardiola's contract negotiations, Rosell said: "Our door is open, the contract is ready, Guardiola can renew when he wants, for as long as he wants. Players, fans and the board want him to continue and the club is doing everything possible to make him comfortable. We just hope he says yes."

Rosell's job is to steer a happy Catalan ship, which is infinitely easier when the team are winning. Yet success invokes envy and he is also right to think that many people would love Barca to fail and love to cause rifts within the club. It is his job to make sure they don't.

sports@thenational.ae


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