F.C. Barcelona in 1977. Johan Cruyff, soccer player.

It’s hard to believe, but there are areas of the world where a club wouldn’t wait to discuss a potentially crucial transfer deal with an incoming manager.

Barcelona are not that club. Nor do they operate on the European managerial meat market in which OF COURSE Guus Hiddink quit Anzhi Makhachkala to waltz over to the Camp Nou–wait, scratch that, is it in bad form to delete Tweets?

And so Gerardo “Tato” Martino is the new Barca manager. Jonathan Wilson puts it well in his column this morning:

So Martino has a decent, if not spectacular record. He has never coached in Europe and many great South American managers have struggled, at least initially, in trying to make the transition.

Past record, though, has rarely been central to Barcelona’s appointments. Frank Rijkaard’s only club experience had been to relegate Sparta Rotterdam for the only time in their history. Pep Guardiola had had one year in charge of the reserve side. Tito Vilanova had taken Palafrugell to relegation out of the Tercera Division in his only stint as a head coach. Far more important is the philosophy.

A difficult word “philosophy,” and one that has consigned many a side to the dustbin of history where Barcelona stubbornly refuse to enter. This could be in part that the concept of an in-house style was an not the overnight project of an overseas billionaire demanding aesthetically-pleasing passing triangles to be implemented forthwith OR ELSE, but of the slow distillation of Dutch principles beginning with the Cruyff era thirty years ago. The demented short-sighted logic of say, an Adrian Durham, seems pretty remote in Barcelona.

BUT, it’s not really as tidy as all that, is it? Despite the paeans to a new “bielsista” era, Barcelona’s continued dominance may also have a lot to do with staggering inequality in La Liga, which dire financial circumstances are making worse. Here’s Pete Jensen in the Independent:

Amid all the chaos Barcelona and Madrid still take 50 per cent of the television money at around €140m a year but the two pay-per-view television channels which share broadcasting rights are losing subscribers to the point where there is little hope that national television revenues will jump to bumper Premier League levels any time soon.

Digital+ admits it has lost 15 per cent of subscribers in the last year and Mediapro, which has just closed down one of its spin-off channels, Marca TV, is 25 per cent down in the last two years. Cardenal wants television revenue negotiated jointly by all clubs from 2014 and paid through a League/Government body with the power to ensure state creditors are paid first –football’s current tax debt is €663m.

But even in those circumstances both Real Madrid and Barcelona are also facing financial hardship, hence United’s eager push to acquire Cesc Fabregas for 35 million pounds. Still, in the end, Barcelona have arguably shored themselves up against La Liga’s unfortunate decline by forging on with tiki-taka. European football should be thankful for that.

Comments (2)

  1. Real and Barca can compensate for any temporary decline in television revenue by increasing their gate prices and concessions. In five years, the unemployment rate should halve (at least, for their sakes) and TV revenues can increase once again.

    Of course, we are but merely fans and should care not about the money of teams, but I digress.

  2. A reformed television contract would help Real Madrid and Barcelona realize they have killed the league; I don’t choose to watch many La Liga matches. The international market is going to shift. Lots of money for some and very little for others, potentially. Clearly the EPL has angled towards international money since early on, while La Liga and Serie A had an early advantage in their international audiences, they have since lost their ways.

    A poor Spanish economy doesn’t seem to be making any steps towards meaningful recovery, so many people will be paupers for decades. We might see Barca and Real Madrid become the most vocal in support of a European league.

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