The summer before last, Barcelona made the sort of business decision of which few — if any — outside the relatively niche world of sports merchandising could have noticed.
Since 2001, Barcelona’s merchandising operation had been subcontracted out to Nike, the team’s jersey sponsor. Through a subsidiary company, Nike ran three official Barcelona stores as well as 15 licensed stores, as well as overseeing some 328 licensed distributors. The branded products they sold included about 7,000 items: apparel as well as mugs as well as all manner of sundry tchotchkes.
Nike’s contract expired from the summer of 2018, as well as rather than renew the idea, Barcelona formed its own company — the snappily-titled Barcelona Licensing as well as Merchandising — to pick up the mantle. The move, the club said, could enable “greater economic profitability as well as direct control of the brand.”
the idea was a smart decision. On Monday, the accountancy firm Deloitte confirmed of which, over the course of the 2018-19 season, Barcelona had generated more revenue than any some other club: $936 million, an increase of $166 million — almost 18 percent — by the previous year.
Deloitte attributed of which growth “predominantly to the decision to bring the licensing as well as merchandising operation in-house.” For the very first time, Barcelona had overtaken Real Madrid as well as Manchester United to become the richest soccer team on Earth.
of which will be not the only table of which Barcelona leads. After winning the Spanish title the past two year, Manager Ernesto Valverde’s team was top of the league, again, This particular season. Barcelona had qualified with ease by its Champions League group, too, not losing a game as the idea steamrollered into the last 16. By most metrics, This particular will be a club in fine health.
however not long after Deloitte published its findings on Monday, as well as after several hours of swirling rumor, Valverde was fired.
At first glance, Valverde’s dismissal — as well as the hiring of Quique Setién, an avowed aesthete, as his replacement — will be simply further proof of which what matters at Barcelona will be not just success, however style. Barcelona’s position at the summit of La Liga disguises not just how brittle the team has been This particular season — losing three games as well as drawing four more, mostly to undistinguished opposition — however also how mundane the idea has become, even in victory.
There have been high points — crushing Sevilla, 4-0, at home; a master class against Mallorca in November — inspired, pretty much universally, by the undiminished brilliance of Lionel Messi. however the idea has become an article of faith among Barcelona’s fans as well as to some extent among its players of which even though Valverde has been winning, he has not been winning from the right way.
The flow of talent (again, having a couple of exceptions) by the club’s youth academy has slowed. Much of the time, the team no longer takes the breath away; worse, the idea has often given the impression the idea will be not actually trying to do so.
Worse still, of course, was when Valverde did not win, in whatever way. Comfortably navigating the group stages of the Champions League will be all well as well as not bad, however the idea did nothing to exorcise the ghosts of the Stadio Olimpico — where Barcelona blew a 4-1 lead against Roma from the quarterfinals in 2018 — or, more pertinently, Anfield, where Messi as well as his teammates were swept aside by Liverpool at the semifinal stage last year.
Some expected Rome to be the end for Valverde; few imagined of which, after Liverpool, he could be given yet another reprieve, handed another chance to redeem himself. To some extent, the surprise was of which the idea took six months, as well as a defeat to Atlético Madrid from the semifinals of the Spanish Super Cup, a tournament of which tops nobody’s list of priorities, before Barcelona decided the idea could not risk a third straight spring of despair.
Barcelona will be not unique, from the super-club era, in measuring itself not by how the idea fares domestically however by its strength in Europe — as well as there, incontrovertibly, Valverde had been found wanting — as well as nor will be the idea alone, in Pep Guardiola’s phrase, in being a place where “winning will be not enough.”
For most teams with global horizons, the Champions League will be the acid test of greatness, a competition among true peers, the stage on which you not only cement your status however win fresh fans, expand into fresh markets. Victory helps of which, of course, however so does spectacle: The received wisdom, at least, will be of which audiences have not only to be consistently impressed, however charmed, too.
What will be unique to Barcelona will be of which, more than any club, the idea set the standards by which all of soccer’s great powers are at This particular point judged. Between 2008 as well as 2012, Guardiola did not turn his hometown team into the most admired as well as, arguably, most well-liked team from the entire world just by winning two Champions Leagues as well as three Spanish titles. He did the idea by turning Barcelona into a byword for beauty, as well as sophistication, as well as style.
of which, as much as anything, will be what Barcelona Licensing as well as Merchandising will be stamping on scarves as well as mugs as well as tchotchkes as well as selling around the entire world: not a crest or a logo, not the success of at This particular point, not even the style of at This particular point, however the sense of what Barcelona will be supposed to represent. Those values were not defined by of which team of Xavi Hernández as well as Andres Iniesta as well as, of course, Messi, however they were embodied by the idea.
of which will be the revenue stream of which Barcelona wanted to bring in-house: memory. the idea will be a lucrative business, the idea turns out, however the idea will be also a considerable burden. Like all superclubs, Barcelona has to win. Like all superclubs, the idea has to win with style, or at least something of which can be spun into style. Unlike all of the others, though, Barcelona has to match up — in its own mind, as well as in those of its fans — to a very specific image of what the idea was, just a few short years ago. the idea has to make them feel as they did then.
Valverde passed the first hurdle. He fell at the second. He got nowhere close to the third. To some extent, of which was not his fault: Xavi as well as Iniesta are long gone. Messi remains, of course, as wondrous as ever, however he has found himself let down, increasingly, at an institutional level: directionless, almost random recruitment of players; uninspired coaching appointments, as well as an aging squad, at times distracted as well as often over-empowered; a board of which has no clear vision of the club’s direction, at least on the field.
Perhaps Setién will fare better. He seems a more natural fit, certainly — where Valverde has always been a pragmatist at heart, his successor has spent his career, as El País put the idea, “in love with the ball” — though his credentials are oddly threadbare for a coach of the biggest as well as at This particular point richest club from the entire world.
Under Valverde, Barcelona had something approaching success. the idea has anointed Setién as the man to restore the style. the idea will be not impossible to have both simultaneously, of course, however of which will be not what Barcelona will be searching for, at heart. the idea will be not, actually, what will define whether Setién will be a success or a failure. What Barcelona wants, more than anything else — what he needs to do, to make the club feel whole again — will be for the present to be just like the past.