Barcelona took a step closer to figuring out who their new president will be on Monday, when four candidates submitted enough signatures to earn the right to stand for official election.
The big question now is when that election could take place, with a rally on Friday potentially pushing out the current January 24 date due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Here, Sportsmail looks at the logistics behind the club’s biggest decision in years, weighing up the final four candidates amid a backdrop of financial chaos caused by Covid-19.
Tuesday’s Mundo Deportivo leads the four candidates vying to become president of Barcelona
The Spanish side needs a replacement for Josep Maria Bartomeu, who walked out in October
WHO IS THE FAVORITE?
Joan Laporta was the favorite before the signatures were counted; that is even more the case now.
He collected 10,257. That’s more than its closest rival Victor Font, who collected 4,710, and Toni Freixa (2,821) and Emili Rousaud (2,257).
Five other candidates – Jordi Farre, Xavier Vilajoana, Fernandez Ala, Pere Riera and Agusti Benedito – all failed to produce the minimum 2,257 signatures.
IS LAPORTA AT HOME AND DRY?
Well, not necessarily. He only produced 5,145 signatures leading up to the 2003 election, but in the end he beat Luis Bassat, who had collected 8,590 signatures – so it’s no guarantee of anything.
However, it suggests that his confidence is well placed and that he is the favorite. However, he will know that there is still time to turn things around unexpectedly.
Joan Laporta was club chairman between 2003-10 and now wants to return to Camp Nou
AND THE PANDEMIC CAN RESET THE ELECTION DATE?
Yes. Traffic between municipalities in Catalonia is currently severely restricted due to the coronavirus, and failure to lift those restrictions could result in the current January 24 election date being suspended.
IS THAT LIKELY?
The restrictions were supposed to be lifted on January 18, but if medical experts confirm fears that this wave has still not peaked, the restrictions could be extended for another two weeks and thus the current lockdown rules would still be in effect until early February. . That could bring the election back to next month.
Victor Font has a chance to become Barca’s new president after a difficult year for the club
WOULD THIS BE THE OPPORTUNITY OF THE NEW PRESIDENT TO MAKE MOVEMENTS IN THE TRANSFER MARKET?
It would. After four wins from their last five games, moved up to third place in LaLiga, and with Lionel Messi happy again, that doesn’t seem to matter as much as it did about a month ago, but any candidate would rather take the reins. with the window still open.
RONALD KOEMAN WOULD not be happy about that, would he be?
It is true that Koeman has made no secret of his wanting a new center-back (Eric Garcia from Manchester City) and a new striker (Memphis Depay from Lyon).
However, every time he mentioned new acquisitions, he has always added that he knows it is difficult and that he would have to accept it if reinforcements weren’t coming.
Ronald Koeman is likely to get frustrated in the January window, despite wanting new players
Lionel Messi celebrates with his Barcelona teammates after scoring earlier in the season
DOES THIS GO TO THE REVIVAL OF BARCELONA DERAIL?
Even if the elections had taken place on January 1, there would still have been little wiggle room with regard to payroll and the club would have struggled with any prepaid transfer fee.
Manchester City will not budge from their position vis-à-vis Garcia, which is that if he goes mid-season there must be a fee.
And, on the cusp of allowing Moussa Dembele to join Atletico Madrid, Lyon will be less likely to let Depay leave.
A new president could try to knock out players to bring in others, though the unexpected advances of young center-backs Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza have reduced Garcia’s immediate need.
And as both Antoine Griezmann and Martin Braithwaite have found some form lately, the need for another attacker has also diminished slightly.
On Wednesday, Deputy President Carles Tusquets made noises about signing the Garcia deal if all was well with all candidates. That’s a long way off his job. If Laporta wins, it seems likely he will close the deal for Garcia when the time comes, but he will very much want it to be his signing; Font as well.
Lyons Memphis Depay (left) and Man City’s Eric Garcia (right) are two targets for Koeman
DO CANDIDATES WANT TO RESTORE THE ELECTIONS?
Laporta is adamant that they should keep going. He says the club has been without a president for too long and with the right measures, elections should go ahead on January 24.
“If exceptions can be made for people who go to work, then they can also be made for people who vote,” he said on Wednesday.
To date he has not made any transfer promises, but added: ‘Barca would lose a golden opportunity in the transfer market and further delay an economic emergency plan. We still have not agreed a budget for the 2020-21 season. ‘
Font’s election promises didn’t target players either. He wants Xavi and Jordi Cruijff on board at the end of the season. This was not an election of big promises signed. Supporters know the situation and a candidate only loses his credibility when he promises one.
Emili Rousaud (left) and Toni Freixa (right) are two outsiders who win the presidential election
DON’T WE MISS THE EXCITEMENT OF A CANDIDATE PROMISING THE WORLD?
Jordi Farre talked about bringing Neymar back and seeing where that took him. He failed to reduce the signatures and now says he will support Laporta.
It is largely an election of its time. Closer to election day, candidates may start nodding and winking at potential summer goals and Laporta mentioning the transfer deadline is an indication of that, but they will also add that they will need to see the club’s accounts before they can commit.
A move for Neymar was talked about by Jordi Farre, but he is now out of the running for president
SO WHAT ARE THE LAST FOUR PROMISES?
Font has said he wants to make Xavi general manager and coach when Koeman needs to be replaced.
Xavi has not publicly committed to that and the feeling is that if Font wins, he will take the offer. But if Laporta is victorious, Xavi can also return to the club in one capacity or another under his leadership – so don’t publicly hammer his colors on Font’s mast.
Laporta has promised to do everything in its power to ensure Messi stays and it is likely that other former names, such as Victor Valdes, can return to the lap.
As for the outsiders Freixa and Roussaud, the latter had to leave the race after all his signatures could not be verified. He said he planned to work with Freixa, but if his supporters now support Freixa, it still feels like this is a two-horse race to the finish.
When that end is likely to come, we’ll likely find out Friday after a meeting between the club and the Catalan parliament.
Font wants to bring club legend Xavi back to Barça, either as general manager or head coach