SPORT asks Josep Bartomeu about signings, Enrique, Neymar and more
We sit down with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu and get stuck into the big issues
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu sat down with SPORT to analyse the extensive refurbishment that has taken place this summer.
Is the team missing anything?
The market closes tomorrow (Monday) at midnight. We are still attentive but Luis Enrique is happy. It is a balanced squad with great hopes. They know there is a lot of talent and are happy with the new acquisitions.
Are you talking about Messi?
And the rest. The players are happy, this is what I've found.
So, it's set for two seasons...
Yes, unless CAS lower the penalty. The arrival of Douglas reflects this. The technical staff believe that we have everything we need for the next two seasons. We have taken into account the completion of contracts and lines of succession. Barca B players and youth team players that can be sent to the first team. If nobody else is signed it is because we will use the youngsters.
Were you surprised to be asked for Douglas?
No, Luis Enrique said he needed him.
How can we sign a player that the sporting director has not seen live?
It has been a year and a half that we have followed him.
Zubizarreta has been to Brazil?
The technical secretary has seen him live many times. They have followed several defenders, brought to Enrique and he chose this one. You go, or you don't go, these days it's not necessary.
Are you the great defender of Zubizarreta? Without you, would he be out of the club?
He advised Guardiola in 2010 and the results over the last four years are there. With the exception of last season, they have been very good. Two league titles, the Champions League, the Super Cup, the Club World Cup. What happened last season is everyone's fault, not one person's.
Every president has his player, is Suarez yours?
No. The technical secretary was following him for a while. I March I was todl I had to sign off on it. Luis Enrique had not yet arrived. It was a decision of the technical staff. The coach, when we got him, also gave hs opinion. It is a "9" which should go well, because we won the treble with Eto'o, "9", the six titles with Ibra as a "9", and the Champiions League after the World Cup with Villa as a "9". The only year we have not had a pure "9" was last year.
Is it true that Cristino vetoed Luis Suarez for Madrid, but Messi didn't?
I do not know what happens there. Here, players are not involved. What I do know is they are very excited about the new signings.
And how do they like Luis Enrique?
He is a great signing. There is a profound change in the club and Enrique is the main character. He will bring fight, effort, hard work, so we signed him. He also has a Barça base, having played here. The goal is for him to return the club to excellence.
His arrival can be compared to that of Pep Guardiola?
Pepe took a team taht had two years without success. Enrique's nearly won the league and reached the Copa del Rey final.
What relationship do you have with Enrique?
I like him as a person because he believes in the same values as me, fight, hard work.
Is this what was missing last season?
We lacked luck too. After Tito 10 days later we had a new coach. Tata did a good job and we came very close, we could have won the league. Why couldn't we have won against Atletico? Or the Copa del Rey when Neymar hit the post? Real had made all their subs and would have tired in extra-time. There are so many things....
Enrique has been signed to win us the league?
No... Luis Enrique is super competitive. The challenge is to return to the level of excellence that can see us win it all. We cannot settle for one, two or three titles. Our aspiration is the maximum.
Are Atletico favourites for the league?
The challengers have strengthened well but you must respect the champion. They are the team to beat.
And in Europe?
It will be complicated. The draw is difficult I had a meeting in the ECA and the general feeling is there were 3 or 4 good teams before and now there are 6 or 7 who can win. Our club is one of them.
The best news this season is the return of Messi?
It is best to see a team that has changed so much to be able to perform like it did in the first game of the season. With so little time and five changes, it still gave off a good image. The team is built around Leo, as we said. He and the rest will come out of their skin.
Leo has an improved contract, is he the highest paid in the world?
I do not know if he is the highest paid but he has an adequate salary. Barca can handle this payment. The club needs to make money each year to remain important and invest in players or equity. For this it is important the club is working and has sponsors. We cannot lose money... we have lowered the club debt to €285million when it was nearly 600.
Neymar will play for a new contract this year?
We all know him. Luis Enrique will bring out the best in him. No one here plays for it, he ahs a contract and sooner or later we will discuss its renewal, it is fundamental.
Do you read the fine print of contracts?
Here we always read it. It was something out of context (referring to Neymar's transfer). Someone with bad faith, selfishly. It has not been confirmed it was Rosell.
What did you think when the Suarez bite happened during negotiations?
This is not something that should be done.
Did you call to scold him?
Yes, but as a friend because the club president cannot do that.
Are you surprised about Munir?
We knew him. He made a name in the UEFA Youth League, he scored from the middle of the pitch. He and Adama played a great game. Last year he was already at Barça B. This is his place to consolidate, he has a great future. He has the humility and knows that football takes time. His contract will be changed if necessary.
In the summer was it proposed you would face a new election?
No. The statutes say there will be elections in 2016.
You have been president for seven months. How's it changing from the vice president to the most responsible?
Life has changed a lot because combining Barça with family and work is not easy.
Do you like being president?
Yes, a lot. I hope to leave the club a bit better than we were in 2010.