Barcelona's future once again resides in Joan Laporta's hands.
The former club president is in the hot seat for another run after winning Barcelona's presidential election Sunday, besting Victor Font and Toni Freixa comfortably in a vote conducted by tens of thousands of the club's members. Laporta won 54.3% of the vote, while Font earned 30% and Freixa saw returns of just 8.6%. Laporta, who oversaw the great heights achieved by the club during his previous term from 2003–10, steps into a void left by Josep Bartomeu, the disgraced ex-president who resigned in October when facing a vote of no confidence. Carles Tusquets had been in charge in the interim. Laporta will serve a six-year term upon taking the reins again.
Bartomeu was arrested this past week for his alleged role in the infamous Barcagate scandal, which was the latest blemish on the club's reputation of late. Barcelona concluded its first trophy-less season in over a decade with a humiliating 8–2 Champions League defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in August, and Lionel Messi expressed his desire to leave the club in the summer after a dispute with Bartomeu over whether he was contractually allowed to leave for free or not.
Messi wound up staying, but his contract expires at the end of this season, and there has been no indication from the Argentine great regarding what he'll do. Laporta has been adamant that he can convince Messi to buy in and stay instead of leaving the only club he's ever known as a professional. Messi was among the club's active players to vote in the election.
In order for Barcelona to be able to afford Messi and other players of or approaching his ilk, it needs money, and that's a problem considering the club is reportedly $1.5 billion in debt, with the effects of the pandemic exacerbating an already dire situation. Sorting out the club's financials is another item now at the top of Laporta's to-do list.
"We experienced the same thing in 2003. We were losing, had a huge debt and were having to pay too many expenses and income was lower than revenue. The situation today is very similar and my formula to get out of it is very simple. We need to control expenses, restructure the debt and work to generate new sources of income," Laporta told the BBC prior to the election.
Laporta will be hoping to bring a similar kind of sporting success back to Camp Nou like he did in his past term, which included two Champions League titles, four La Liga crowns, three Spanish Super Cups, one Copa del Rey, one UEFA Super Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup title.
Barring a second unlikely comeback vs. PSG in four years, Barcelona's first sporting act under Laporta will be a Champions League ouster in the round of 16. Barça trails 4–1 on aggregate heading into the away leg in Paris on Wednesday, which comes four years and a day from when the club overturned a 4–0 first-leg deficit and won 6–1 at Camp Nou in a match that went down in history as La Remontada (The Comeback).
Barcelona, which did complete one comeback last week to stun Sevilla and reach the Copa del Rey final and is within three points of Atletico Madrid atop La Liga's table, is in search of a more existential comeback under Laporta anyway, one where its on-field successes outweigh the off-field strife that has had an impact on both the bottom line and the club's results.