Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu resigned Tuesday amid the fallout of his feud with star Lionel Messi, and on his way out revealed the Spanish club wants to join a potential new super league of elite European teams.
After one of the club’s worst seasons in more than a decade, Bartomeu announced that his entire board of directors also resigned, effectively avoiding a motion of censure vote that was scheduled for the coming weeks.
Bartomeu wanted to delay the vote, citing health concerns for the club’s more than 110,000 members amid the coronavirus pandemic, but local officials earlier in the day authorized the vote to take place.
“We have to act responsibly,” Bartomeu said. “For that reason we cannot hold the vote of censure in the current circumstances. It was necessary to do so in conditions that guaranteed everybody’s health. We cannot nor want to put ourselves in a position of having to choose between protecting people’s health and exercising the right to vote. For that reason we have taken the decision to not call the vote and resign forthwith.”
More than 20,000 Barcelona members had signed a petition for Bartomeu and his board to face a motion of censure. The petition was made not long after Messi said he wanted to leave the club, and following the team's embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League, a result that capped the club's first season without a title since 2007-08.
Messi was critical of club directors last season and said he didn’t like the direction the club was headed. He personally complained of Bartomeu for not keeping his promise to let him leave.
Bartomeu said on Monday that he explained to Messi and his family that he could not let the world’s best player depart before the end of his contract, which expires at the end of this season. Bartomeu had also said that resigning had not crossed his mind.
He said “the desire of this board of directors has never been to hold on to power at the club,” which will now be managed by an interim board until new elections are held.
“We know that we will leave the club in the hands of an interim board that, in the current circumstances of the pandemic, has no guarantee of being able to hold elections in the short term,” he said. “We know that and I hope that the interim board will be able to carry out our decisions to help the club through the pandemic crisis."
Bartomeu added that the club had given its initial approval to a new competition.
“I can announce that we approved the requirements to be part of a European Super League,” Bartomeu said. “The decision to play the competition now must be ratified by the next (club) assembly.”
It was not immediately clear from Bartomeu’s comments who would be organizing a Super League or if such a competition would only replace the UEFA-run Champions League.
Bartomeu, who did not answer questions Tuesday, is leaving nearly seven years after he took over the club following the resignation of Sandro Rosell in 2014.
After the team's loss to Bayern, Bartomeu announced “profound changes" to the club and called for new presidential elections for March. He said he knew “unpopular and uncomfortable” decisions would have to be made.
“It would be the easy thing to do to quit after the elimination in the Champions League, but we had to guarantee the club's future in the middle of a world crisis without precedents,” he said. “We had no reason to resign when new elections had already been scheduled.”