Joan Laporta: The Architect of the Greatest Football Team
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Joan Laporta: The Architect of the Greatest Football Team

19/02/24 14:26

“If Joan Laporta does not win, Barcelona lose”. While these may seem like the words of an average football fan, they were actually spoken by the legendary Johan Cruyff. Whilst younger fans may know Joan as the President who let Lionel Messi go, there is so much more to his story at Football Club Barcelona. This is the tale of how a Catalan lawyer built the greatest club side in the history of the game.

Barcelona has always been one of the biggest clubs in world football. From having legendary players like Kubala and Cruyff in the past to becoming European Champions in 1992, the club had already cemented itself in the history books far before Joan came along. However, when Laporta first became club president in 2003, he inherited a team in shambles.

The Blaugranas had not won a trophy since 1999 and the club was an economic mess. They had also been publicly embarrassed in the famous Luis Figo transfer saga. It did not help that their arch rivals Real Madrid were going through their “Galactico” phase under Florentino Perez and were a commercial hit. Laporta’s predecessor Joan Gaspart had resigned after a very difficult two and a half years at the club. The new board definitely seemed to have his work cut out for them.

Joan and his board were determined to usher in a new era for Barca. The club wanted to return to its Cruyffian roots and utilise the abundant youth talent coming in from their academy La Masia. After consultation with the legendary Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard was appointed as the manager by Laporta. The club also signed Ronaldinho and Rafa Marquez, both of whom went on to become club legends. In the 2003/2004 season, the club failed to win any major titles but the team still seemed to be headed in the right direction.

The 2004/2005 season brought tons of joy to the club and its fanbase. Barcelona ended their 6 year trophy drought after winning both La Liga and the Spanish Super Cup. The club was playing impressive football with Ronaldinho at the peak of his powers right in the middle of it all. This was also the season where a certain Argentine youngster named Lionel Messi made his official debut for Barcelona. The 2005/2006 season however was where Frank Rijkaard’s team peaked.

Barca not only won La Liga but they also won the second Champions League trophy in the history of the club. The Catalan club was well and truly at the top of the world. Barcelona also signed an agreement with Unicef to put the logo of the organisation on the club’s jersey. This embodied the club motto of “Mes Que En Club'' and shows exactly what Laporta’s Barca stood for.

Whilst the club was doing well on a commercial level, the team started to decline on the pitch. The two seasons following the legendary 2005/2006 season showed a lack of hunger from the players. The level of the team declined and seemed like the team was losing its spirit. The 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Real Madrid in May 2008 seemed like the final nail in the coffin for supporters and the club alike. An unsuccessful vote of no confidence was launched against Laporta in 2008. All this led to Joan making a decision that would change modern football forever.

At the end of the 2007/2008 season, Frank Rijkaard left Football Club Barcelona. Jose Mourinho was lauded by many as the perfect candidate for the vacant managerial position at Barcelona, however Joan Laporta decided to appoint an inexperienced 37 year old coach, who was managing the Barcelona B team at the time. That man was Pep Guardiola.

The rest, as they say, is history. Not many presidents would have backed their inexperienced manager when he wanted to remove their biggest stars from the team. But that is exactly what Joan did when Pep asked for the departures of Ronaldinho and Deco. The coach’s wishes were granted and he repaid the faith of the board by winning the Sextuple in his first year as coach of Football Club Barcelona. The team not only won titles, but they did it playing some of the best football we have ever seen. That is what makes them so memorable.

The relationships Joan built were a key factor in his success as president. He always transmitted calmness and trust to the members of the club. This is what allowed the team to move past the disaster of the 2007/2008 season in spectacular fashion. Pep Guardiola was happy. Johan Cruyff was happy. The players were happy. All this was reflected on the field. Laporta was a Blaugrana just like the players and the fans around the world which created a united atmosphere at the club. Joan also maintained an excellent relationship with the football agents in the world including the likes of Jorge Mendes, Pini Zahavi and the late Mino Raiola. This allowed him to complete mega deals like the signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the summer of 2009.

To understand the extent of Laporta’s brilliance during his stint, you only need to look at how the club fared after his departure. Joan Laporta departed the club in 2010. The foundations of what he built were too strong to decay instantly but the decline was inevitable. Johan Cruyff cut ties with the new board mere days after they were elected. Pep Guardiola departed the club in 2012 after an alleged falling out with new club president Sandro Rossell. Fast forward to 2020, only 10 years after Laporta’s departure and the club looked unrecognisable.

The infamous Josep Bartemou left the club near bankruptcy and a disaster both on and off the pitch. And who did the Socios turn to in 2021 to repair the damage? Joan Laporta yet again was tasked to save the club. This is what the great man had to say about the situation of the club in 2017: “Their only interest was to discredit us because we left them the best Barca in history. Seven years have gone by and they have maintained a lie in order to discredit me and to do their thing with Qatar. They removed Unicef to put Qatar there, and they discredited me, saying that we had managed the club in an irresponsible way, and that allowed them to do their thing with Qatar. We have an ex-president who said that I mismanaged the club, who said so in order to discredit me and undertake activities with Qatar. Well, now he’s in prison for alleged involvement with an armed group, cashing illegal commissions and money laundering.’’

The media has always tried to attack Joan Laporta and continues to do so, even today. It has been almost 3 years since Joan took over the club again and it finally seems like the club is headed in the right direction again. They will continue to try and defame him and discredit his work but the facts are there for all to see. Football is indebted to Joan for giving us the opportunity to witness that historic Barcelona side. Thank you Presi!

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