Police raid and arrests deepen FC Barcelona crisis
Police raided the headquarters of FC Barcelona on Monday, seizing evidence in relation to the club's social media scandal and arresting four people.
Detained: Josep Maria Bartomeu, former president; Oscar Grau, CEO; Roman Gomez Ponti, head of legal services; Jaume Masferrer, an adviser to Bartomeau.
The backdrop: It's been a year since Barça was alleged to have hired an external marketing company to smear former and current players, including Lionel Messi, on social media.
- Barcelona denied the allegations and a PWC audit cleared the club of any wrongdoing, but the police continued their investigation.
- They first raided the club's Camp Nou offices last June in search of documents. On Monday, they returned.
The big picture: These arrests are yet another crisis for one of the world's most valuable sports teams, which is already facing crippling debt, boardroom turmoil, declining play, and endless Messi drama.
- Crippling debt: Barça owes ~$1.2 billion to its lenders, tax officials and rival clubs, according to financial statements. Camp Nou is usually one of Spain's most visited tourist sites, but spectators remain prohibited — a huge loss of revenue.
- Boardroom turmoil: Barcelona dealt with off-field dysfunction for much of 2020, and these arrests come just six days before the club's 140,000 members will elect Bartomeu's successor as president.
- Declining play: Last season was Barça's first without a title since 2007-08, and this season hasn't been much better. While they've rallied to move into second place in La Liga, they face a 2-0 deficit to Sevilla in the Copa del Rey and a 4-1 deficit to PSG in the Champions League.
- Endless Messi drama: Messi briefly threatened to leave the club this summer after a public falling out with Bartomeu. He decided to stay, but his contract ends in May. The drama continued last month when a newspaper published leaked details of Messi's $672 million contract.
Go deeper: Barcelona and the crippling cost of success (NYT)