No surprises in store for Barcelona
Barcelona fans would have imagined this season as a fresh start after ending a dismal campaign with an 8-2 hammering to Bayern Munich. Instead, things have gotten progressively worse over the past 44 days and came to a head on the eve of their La Liga opener at home to Villarreal tonight.
Lionel Messi blasted the board again on Friday in an Instagram post after Luis Suarez's departure, saying that nothing about them surprised him anymore. Other former player such as Samuel Eto'o, Daniel Alves and Cesc Fabregas also commented, with Neymar adding: "[It's] Incredible how they do things".
Messi's reaction to his close friend's exit is no surprise. That he was upset about it being a possibility had also made headlines. But the fact that he made his discontent so public showed that he had no desire to continue the facade. After years of being the perfect ambassador, the Argentine again aired the displeasure which stems from the board challenging him to take the club to court if he were to have his way and leave.
For his part, Bartomeu has repeatedly praised himself for keeping hold of Messi, while also saying: "Messi guarantees success". That claim may be hyperbolic, but in the sense of attracting fans and, in turn, sponsors, it is fact.
The 33-year-old has attempted to get things right on the field at least, having participated in training and the pre-season friendlies. His shaking hands with Koeman after a friendly was seen around Spain as a sign that the duo had buried the hatchet after an awkward first meeting.
Although more signings will be needed to replace outgoing and ageing players, Phillipe Coutinho's return after an encouraging campaign at Bayern and Ousmane Dembele's from injury will be welcome. Miralem Pjanic, who arrived from Juventus, said Barcelona would be eager to show the world that loss to Bayern was "an accident".
Fans will also be eager to see how Ansu Fati -- who had a 400-million-euro buyout clause inserted into his contract -- performs. It is also likely that Antoine Griezmann will be more involved by playing in his preferred position down the middle, replacing Suarez.
Yet, there are those that believe Koeman lost the plot when he decided Riqui Puig was expendable. The 21-year-old, who impressed last season, decided to stay and fight for his place in the first team and was registered with Barcelona B recently.
While that storm swirls, Bartomeu is stalling a second vote on a motion of censure against him. The club are insisting that the identity of each person who signed the initial petition be verified twice. First, through a phone call and then by letting a graphologist examine the signatures on the petition.
The club's board of directors reportedly suspect that as many as 5,000 of the 20,687 signatures are forgeries, according to COPE. If that does turn out to be the case, then the number of signatures would fall below the 16,00-odd votes required to force a second phase of voting. That verification process will begin on September 29.
There are somewhat darker rumours that Bartomeu is acting out of self-interest, keeping in mind the board is liable for a portion of the losses that the club suffers. Selling Suarez, Vidal, Rakitic and Nelson Semedo will reportedly save 52 million euros each season on salaries alone, and go a long way towards curbing Barcelona's inflated wage structure.
When Messi finally broke his silence and decided to stay at Barcelona, he said that he had become disillusioned by the direction of the club. He felt that they were not making the kind of effort that was needed to stay competitive. In the time since, they have done nothing to put their most valuable player, whose contract expires at the end of the season, at ease.
They have not made changes that their best player feels will help them, but they expect him to live up to his 'guarantee' of success. Given his reputation, it would not be entirely surprising if he did.