The nightmare may have only just begun for Barcelona, as the Spanish champion attempts to repair its shattered image following the resignation of president Sandro Rosell.
While Rosell is certainly not the first president to quit – only last month Sevilla’s Jose Maria del Nido was imprisoned for embezzlement and breaching the course of justice – never before has such a powerful football figure done so over a scandal related to a transfer of this scale.
|ROSELL'S REIGN - A TIMELINE |
|ELECTED BARCA PRESIDENT |
|JUL 2010 ||Rosell is elected as the new president of Barcelona, succeeding Joan Laporta in the hot seat|
|CRUYFF STRIPPED |
|JUL 2010||One of Rosell's first decisions is to strip Barca legend Johan Cruyff of his honorary presidency|
|QATAR FOUNDATION |
|AUG 2011 ||Rosell angers many when Barca strikes a corporate shirt sponsorship deal with Qatar Foundation|
|NOV 2011||Barca, Neymar and his family company N&N sign pre-contract ahead of potential 2014 transfer|
|NEYMAR SIGNS FOR BARCA |
|MAY 2013||Barcelona signs Santos star Neymar for "57.1 million euros", but the complexities of the deal soon raises questions|
|ABIDAL LEAVES BARCA |
|JUN 2013 ||Eric Abidal departs Barca after Rosell decides not to offer the popular veteran a new contract|
|THIAGO JOINS BAYERN|
|JUL 2013 ||Rosell fails to retain one of Europe's best youngsters, Thiago Alcantara, who joins Guardiola at Bayern|
|ROSELL ACCUSED BY CASES |
|DEC 2013 ||Barca socio Jordi Cases demands an clearer financial explanation of the Neymar transfer|
|ROSELL RESIGNS |
|JAN 2014 ||Rosell, under investigation by the Spanish High Court, resigns as president of Barcelona|
Rosell insisted at his farewell press address that the allegations are "unfair" and "everything that happened in the transfer of Neymar was correct."
Barca bought the Brazil international for a fee of 57.1 million, euros but only 17.1 million of that found its way to Santos and the mystery surrounding the "missing" 40 million has left blood on the Camp Nou carpet.
Barcelona’s motto is Més que un club (more than a club), and the organization prides itself on its purity. A symbol of Catalan culture, Barcelona has, since the dictatorships of Primo de Rivera and General Franco, battled against elitist values and painted a picture that it champions democracy, transparency and charity.
Prior to 2011, the Blaugrana earned widespread acclaim for their resistance to corporate sponsorship. The club's work for charitable causes, which led to a five-year agreement with UNICEF and the Barcelona Foundation donating 1.5 million euros a year to the United Nations Children’s Fund, was also hailed by humanitarians.
Recent coaches such as Tata Martino, Tito Vilanova and Pep Guardiola have recognized the importance of, publicly at least, conducting themselves with decorum and dignity. The thought of appointing a coach like Jose Mourinho, who values substance over style, would be unthinkable.
The fallout from the Rosell-Neymar affair could have a catastrophic effect on this squeaky-clean image that Barcelona has created.
Italian behemoth Juventus paid a heavy price for becoming embroiled in the Calciopoli crisis in 2006. Almost overnight the Bianconeri’s stock plummeted and all over Europe the Old Lady – unfairly following findings in the aftermath of the scandal - developed a corrupt reputation.
From a commercial and sporting basis it took Juventus more than half-a-decade to begin its recovery. Sponsorship deals were harder to come by, elite stars were no longer attracted to Juve as they had been prior to 2006, and the Serie A championship as a marketable product was crushed.
Barcelona’s situation is by no means as serious as Juventus’ was. The Blaugrana will not be relegated to the Segunda Division, they will not be forced to sell half of their team and they will not instantly lose hundreds of millions of euros, but Barca’s proud reputation will take just as long to restore.
Many would argue that Rosell's departure is actually good for the Catalans. Since being elected in 2010, his tenure has been fraught with tension. Rosell was involved in a very public dispute with his predecessor Joan Laporta, while he ostracized and stripped club icon Johan Cruyff of his honorary presidency.
The 49-year-old's relationship with Guardiola soured prior to the coach's exit in 2012, while he also was criticized for not offering Eric Abidal a new deal last season after the Frenchman had returned from a serious illness. Many of his decisions were hugely unpopular both inside and outside the club, including the move to finally embrace corporate shirt sponsorship with Qatar Airways, the failure to retain Thiago Alcantara and the closing down of some of the club's other sporting sections.
But the way in which Rosell's exit has materialized taints all the potential benefits that his exit will bring. The outcome of the investigation remains uncertain and the club insists that it has done nothing wrong.
But the Spanish champions are in danger of becoming as infamous for their association with the Neymar transfer as they are famous for any fabulous football they exhibit on the pitch. An image of purity has been shattered. For the sake of all those who hold the club dear, let's just hope the damage is not irrevocable.