UEFA also no longer trusts Barcelona’s dealings and is investigating ‘bribery’
While the supreme first team may break the record of one hundred points in a season, what is happening behind the scenes at Barcelona, in particular, is keeping spirits high in Spain.
Even UEFA has now launched an investigation into alleged bribery practices by the Catalans. Between 2001 and 2018, referees were allegedly systematically bribed, involving a total of €6.5 million.
“The problem at hand is the worst I can remember,” La Liga president Javier Tebas told Vamos recently. “There have been payments from Barcelona to the vice president of the referees’ commission, José María Enríquez Negreira.”
The reputation of soccer is at stake. I am ashamed.
At Barcelona, they resolutely dismiss all rumors. Former player Gerard Piqué, for example, is firmly convinced that no penny was ever paid and simply calls his team superior during the period in question. Barcelona won everything there was to win.
But things have been getting crazier in recent weeks. Now a letter with possible new evidence has been found in the safe of recently deceased former director Josep Contreras. The envelope reads “Open only in the event of our greatest misfortune.
And the media, of course, are feasting on it. Madrid’s El País already published the leaked handwritten scribbles, allegedly referring to former presidents Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Real Madrid, as an “aggrieved party,” has since joined the official prosecution. Justice has placed the case in the hands of a department specializing in anti-corruption.
Supporters of opponents are also turning increasingly fierce against the La Liga frontrunner. At Athletic Club, monopoly money was thrown demonstratively a week and a half ago.
“I’m surprised by the hostile environment and it makes me sad,” Barcelona coach and club icon Xavi revealed in response. “I think judging in advance is not good for society.”
Under the reign of president Joan Laporta, who returned in late 2020, Barcelona is trying to crawl out of the sporting and, more importantly, financial valley.
Long-term media and marketing contracts were signed to generate short-term income for expensive purchases. While the club was practically declared bankrupt, one top purchase after another was presented last summer.
Through gross investments in Raphinha, Jules Koundé and Robert Lewandowski, the team is taking shape, but the sporting advance does nothing to diminish the aura of the club, which now suffers violently from all the allegations.
Barcelona has now sued five journalists and several media outlets for defamation.
“Fierce attacks are taking place that have nothing to do with reality, with the aim of damaging the image of our club. You can be sure that the board that I have the honor to chair will defend itself in every way,” Laporta roared.
“The reputation of soccer is at stake,” Tebas said on behalf of La Liga recently. “I am ashamed. We have not heard a good explanation from Barcelona.”
UEFA is now getting involved in the investigation. If the rules were actually broken, there could be serious consequences. Exclusion from the lucrative, European tournaments, for example. Or even mandatory relegation, as happened to Juventus in Italy.
The footballers still seem to care little. Through the cup and the league, the club is still competing on two fronts for a top prize. “We didn’t talk to each other about it in the locker room, we are professionals,” Xavi said. “We just hope to play soccer, defend this team to the death.”