Barcelona are set to elect a new president on Sunday.
The election has taken on new significance since Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October to avoid a vote of no-confidence, was arrested on Monday while the club's offices were raided in a probe into allegations of improper management and corruption.
Talisman Lionel Messi's future is uncertain, Barca are in the midst of a crippling financial crisis and they are falling behind the top sides in Europe, highlighted by thrashings at the hands of Liverpool, Bayern Munich and Paris St Germain.
Messi absent for Argentina qualifiers as Coronavirus 'hit him hard'
WHAT IS AT STAKE?
Since Bartomeu resigned, the club has been under the stewardship of acting president Carles Tusquets. However, his powers are limited. A new board will have the powers to set an agenda, including who to sign and other major decisions. They will also have to address a debt that currently stands at €1.4 billion.
WHO ARE THE CANDIDATES
- Born in Barcelona on June 29, 1962
- President of Barcelona between 2003 and 2010 and candidate in the 2015 elections in which he placed second
- He was a deputy in the Parliament of Catalonia (2010-12) and a councillor in the Barcelona City Council (2011-2015
Laporta is running on a ticket of returning the club to its former glories - central to this is the renewal of the contract of Messi, as revealed in an exclusive interview with Eurosport - with Jordi Cruyff set to take on the role of technical director.
- Born in Granollers (Barcelona) on August 12, 1972
- Businessman. Executive Director of Delta (CEO) Partners Group and founder of Ara newspaper
Font, a technology entrepreneur, has placed Xavi Hernandez and Toni Nadal as central components to his ticket, and has warned that the club face becoming a 'new Milan' without the required direction at boardroom level.
- Born in Barcelona on October 8, 1968.
- Member 62,778. He was a manager with Laporta between 2003 and 2005. He resigned and returned as spokesperson and secretary of the board chaired by Sandro Rosell and Bartomeu.
- Lawyer of the Freixa Advocats law firm and businessman.
Freixa, who will employ former player Lluís Carreras as sporting director, contends that, with new investment and the club's coffers bolstered, they can sign players of the ilk of Erling Halaand and Kylian Mbappe.
WHO IS THE FAVOURITE?
To advance to the election the candidates needed to attain a minimum of 2257 signatures. Here is how each candidate fared.
- Laporta: 10,257
- Font: 4,710
- Freixa: 2,821
A poll run by Cadena Ser has Laporta as the overwhelming favourite with Freixa and Font distant second and third, respectively.
What bearing will this election have on the future of Messi?
All three candidates have said they want him to stay, but there are just four months left on his deal and Messi wanted out due to his tumultuous bad relationship with Bartomeu. The Argentine says he wants to speak to the incoming president before making up his mind. However, given their history, Laporta winning could lay the foundations for him to stay, but he would almost certainly have to take a pay cut. Eurosport Spain's Enrique Sanchez suggests there may be a compromise.
"Messi could take a pay cut for two to three years, and then, once Barcelona emerge from their current financial plight, he could sign a longer, more lucrative deal of five to six years that could extend beyond his playing career."
How bad is the situation in Barcelona?
From a sporting perspective they could actually have a good season, if they win the Copa del Rey and challenge for Liga. That would be enough. But financial realities are different. The financial situation is bad. However, banks will likely refinance the loans and a new board can look to sponsorships to contain the debt. Ultimately, an institution such as Barcelona will not be allowed to fail. Real Madrid were in a similar situation in 2000 but solutions were found.
With additional reporting from Reuters
Critics of Messi 'know nothing about football', says Karim Benzema
Carragher: Messi called me 'a donkey' for criticising PSG transfer