Barca presidential race overshadowing Spain's World Cup preparations

The arrival of David Villa, the Primera Liga title and the World Cup finals are receiving less coverage than FC Barcelona’s upcoming presidential elections in the Catalan media at the moment.

Barca’s 162,979 members will get their chance to vote for their new president on June 13th and the six main candidates are working hard electioneering.

It’s difficult to walk through the streets of the Ciudad Condal without a young campaign member in a brightly coloured t-shirt thrusting a manifesto into your hand.

Glossy photographs of the contenders sit atop lists of their intentions and promises. Some have a Barca legend supporting their campaign, others deep pockets to fund tour buses and an expensive campaign headquarters on one of Barcelona’s grandest streets.

I saw a candidate last week sat alone in his campaign bus, which had plotted up for a day outside a church in the middle of Barcelona. I felt sorry for him, more so when I read that he is attracting just 1.6% of the votes in polls at the moment.

At Barca’s final home game of the season against Valladolid, fans were swamped by workers representing all candidates – some of whom had gone to great lengths to capture the public’s attention, be it by using the prettiest girls or musical bands.

The prize on offer is a chance to take over from Joan Laporta, who went from being an outsider to winning the club elections in 2003. A former fan activist and lawyer, his trump card was a deal with Manchester United to sign David Beckham.

Beckham didn’t even return the phone call as he was set on joining the Catalans’ arch-rivals Real Madrid, but the publicity catapulted the youthful Laporta into power. He won the next election and has become Barca’s most successful ever president with two European Cups and four league titles under his tutelage.

Democracy rocks!

As the presidency is limited to two terms, Laporta has to stand down. He is likely to pursue a career in politics, but he’s not going quietly.

Villa was purchased before the elections because the outgoing president wanted the striker who is likely to illuminate future Barca successes to be known as a Laporta signing

The same ego-driven principle would apply to Cesc Fabregas, though Barca are unlikely to offer Arsenal a similar transfer fee to the one they paid for Villa, as they are not convinced Fabregas will get into their side, let alone improve it.

Laporta would rather fans remember Villa, Daniel Alves, Ronaldinho or the emergence of Lionel Messi rather than Zlatan Ibrahimovic or the €25 million flop Dmytro Chygrynsky.

Laporta’s former sidekick Sandro Rosell, 46, is the favourite to win. The pair fell out in 2005 – two years after Rosell fixed the transfer of Ronaldinho to Barcelona. A fierce critic of Laporta, the incumbent doesn’t want him to succeed and has his own candidates in place, but the momentum is with Rosell, who cuts an impressive figure.

All the six candidates want to keep Pep Guardiola in charge. That continuity has meant that the election hasn’t disturbed the team as a candidate proposing a new coach might have done. Guardiola has been diplomatic and distanced himself from all prospective replacements, saying that he’s prepared to work with whoever is elected in the best interests of the club.

Barca have the foundations to win every competition they enter next season and continue their hegemony, but with Jose Mourinho’s appointment as Real Madrid coach imminent, the Catalans and their new president will need to be at the top of their game.

Guardiola v Mourinho is set to be the most exciting managerial duel of them all. Madrid president Florentino Perez has been accused of meddling and destabilising the team. Whoever is elected at Camp Nou must refrain from doing the same.

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