Path Clear for Laporta as He Rolls out Eric Abidal for Barcelona Presidency Bid

Jason Pettigrove@@jaypetti1971Contributor IJune 23, 2015

Joan Laporta will seek to bring some harmony to Barcelona.
Joan Laporta will seek to bring some harmony to Barcelona.Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

Joan Laporta knows how to play the crowd doesn't he?!

Former Barcelona president Laporta, having recently confirmed his intention to run again in this summer's club elections, told waiting media and supporters everything they wanted to hear in his address on Monday.

Everything from the sponsorship of Qatar Airways to the demise of La Masia and Barca B formed part of the narrative as the savvy Laporta sought to win over those club supporters left disgusted by the failings of the Sandro Rosell/Josep Maria Bartomeu era.

Of course actions speak louder than words so Laporta needs to do a little more than pay lip service.

A restoration of Johan Cruyff's honorary presidency would be another move to appease the Barca public unhappy at the removal of the same by Sandro Rosell.
A restoration of Johan Cruyff's honorary presidency would be another move to appease the Barca public unhappy at the removal of the same by Sandro Rosell.MANU FERNANDEZ/Associated Press

The model of the club that many supporters identify with is one that was moulded by Johan Cruyff. Laporta remains resolutely a "Cruyffista" and will no doubt seek to restore the title of Honorary President to the Dutchman as soon as practicable.

A title which was rescinded by Rosell almost immediately upon coming to power in a move many saw as "tit for tat" against former friend and running mate Laporta.

Per ESPN, another Rosell move, to Qatar Foundation and then eventually Qatar Airways for shirt sponsorship, is likely to be swiftly overhauled by Laporta:

We prefer to be linked with UNICEF. We don't share [the ideas of the] political regime in Qatar. It gives the impression anything can be bought for money; that is not Barca.

We are UNICEF. They are Qatar.

For over 100 years Barcelona's Blaugrana remained resolutely sponsor-less. One of Laporta's biggest successes was to introduce a name on the shirt. The name of Unicef. A charity. And Barcelona would pay for the privilege.

Barcelona would see Unicef as their main shirt sponsor again under a Joan Laporta presidency.
Barcelona would see Unicef as their main shirt sponsor again under a Joan Laporta presidency.Stu Forster/Getty Images

It was, at the time, a unique move and very much aligned with the "mes que un club" motto of the Catalans.

With Barca unable to sign players until January 2016 because of the underhand business dealings of Rosell and Bartomeu, the club will be forced to draw upon the reserves of its academy. That fact was not lost on Laporta as he said (h/t ESPN):

It is a question of identity and an important pillar to create a sustainable and solid club. We want La Masia to function well again. It's allowed us to achieve great success.

We want players coming out of La Masia for the first team at a high level, like with [Andres] Iniesta, [Sergio] Busquets, Pedro, Xavi and [Lionel] Messi.

The trump card in his presidential bid however came when he unveiled former player Eric Abidal as his sporting director.

Abidal has a special place in the hearts of all Barca fans after overcoming cancer to once again play at the highest level.

The image of the Frenchman lifting the 2011 Champions League trophy at Wembley will remain an iconic moment in the history of the club.

Despite the player returning to full fitness, Rosell made the hugely unpopular move to not offer Abidal a new contract. By bringing the Frenchman back to the club in such a prominent capacity, Laporta really has hit the jackpot.

Per Catalan daily Sport via ESPN, Laporta also told reporters:

He's one of our heroes for all that he has won and because of the energy he transmits to all of us working on this campaign. He will be sporting director [if I'm elected].

We are thinking of players than can adapt to our model. I know a lot of agents and am in communication with them. Abidal knows all about that, it's up to him.

In any presidential election, the winner is determined not just by popularity and manifesto pledges but by sounding the right notes of caution and getting the balance correct. Laporta has done exactly that.

Javier Giraldo of Sport has reported on a secret signing that Josep Maria Bartomeu has already secured and who he will announce a few days before the vote, in order to capitalise on the feelgood factor from the end of his presidency when Barca became treble winners for the second time.

Is Koke the "spanish central midfielder" that Josep Maria Bartomeu refers to as having already concluded a deal with Barcelona is he is elected?
Is Koke the "spanish central midfielder" that Josep Maria Bartomeu refers to as having already concluded a deal with Barcelona is he is elected?Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

But one "galactico" signing does not a good president make. Too much water has passed under the bridge. Bartomeu will be forever associated with Rosell and his own decision to install himself as president in the wake of Rosell's resignation.

A hitherto unheard-of manoeuvre making him the only unelected president in Barcelona's history. That will not be forgotten come voting day.

Make no mistake, this race is Joan Laporta's to lose.

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