Have Barça blown the Champions League with their UNICEF sell-out?

According to modern footballing wisdom, Barcelona’s success is built on the four pillars of Leo Messi’s goals, Xavi’s passing...and...er...Leo Messi’s goals and Xavi’s passing.

But on this particular occasion, as with those who claim it would be a shame to see Deportivo go down on Saturday, the perceived wisdom couldn’t be more wrong.

Barça’s blistering form over the past three years has been driven like a nuclear reactor in a Robin Reliant by the natural forces of smugness produced from displaying the name of UNICEF on the front of the club shirt - a goody-two-shoes gesture that had José Mourinho pondering naughtily if that alone hadn’t been enough to propel them into two Champions League finals in three years.

In the Madrid manager’s defence the humungous amount of energy generated by the gleaming aura of self-satisfaction gained from the UNICEF deal has not just powered the football club but also the electrical grids of the Camp Nou, the city of Barcelona, Cataluyna and some parts of France.

Unfortunately, this super-charged success has come to an end with Barcelona showing off their new shirts for the season to come - shirts which have UNICEF relegated to the bottom of the back of the jersey with the club’s new imperial overlords, The Qatar Foundation, on the front - a result of the €30 million a year deal between the two institutions' contribution to the Barca cause.


Barca's new kit is a little smarter than the last one...

Carlos Puyol’s perm-framed face atop the new shirt adorns the front cover of both Sport and Mundo Deportivo, but the reaction from both papers is fairly muted to the culture change with the latter merely commenting that the new Nike-driven design will probably sell well - a most Real Madrid of reactions, it must be said.

Sport’s Lluís Mascaró doesn’t like the new-look at all, and asks for the club to think of the children by opining that “we can’t talk to the kids about international solidarity anymore. We’ll have to tell them about petrodollars, and that’s not the same.”

Johan Vehils attempts but ultimately fails to get excited about UNICEF’s relegation to the players' bum-zones when writing that “the most important aspect about the shirt is not the design, nor the sponsor but how to feel it. In this way our players are the best in the world.”

Over in Capital City, both Marca and AS are still sulking over UEFA’s refusal to punish Sergio Busquets for the alleged racial abuse of Marcelo during the first leg of the El Clasico Champions League semi-final clash last month.

Marca do at least recognise why no action was taken, with Tuesday’s editorial noting that “there is no conclusive evidence that shows the alleged racist insult.” AS shrug that this decision simply follows on from the supposed philosophy of both the Spanish FA and UEFA which decrees that “if in doubt, go pro-Barça.”

Sport reacted to the response and the idea that Busquets was even investigated in the first place with hostile intent with Josep María Casanovas suggesting that the Forces of Mordor should be blanked for a while. “It’s difficult to maintain relations with a club who try to harm you again and again. Breaking all institutional relations would be the deserved gesture.”

LLL feels the Sport writer should instead be focussing his energies and concentration on what will happen in nine days time, when Barcelona walk out on to the Wembley pitch to face Manchester United with their most imperious power source - the neutron star that is the club’s moral superiority over everyone else - irreparably damaged...

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