Barcelona stars past and present came out in number to vote in what was arguably the most important presidential election in club history, as Joan Laporta was elected for a second time.
Having previously served from 2003 to 2010 – one of the most successful eras in Barça’s history – Laporta became just the fourth president to take charge in different mandates and the first since 1942.
Laporta finished with 54.28% of the overall vote, well clear of runner-up Victor Font, who finished with 29.99% of the vote. Antoni Freixa finished a distant third with 8.58%. Laporta succeeds Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned as president in October.
A total of 55,611 members voted – including 20,663 who had voted via mail for the first time in history – with the likes of club talisman Lionel Messi, former captain Carles Puyol and former head coach Luis Enrique showing up to vote in person on Sunday.
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“Seeing Leo [Messi] go to vote, the best player in the world, voting with his son, for me, this shows what we’ve said all along: that Leo loves Barça,” Laporta said. “That we are all a big family. Hopefully, that helps him to stay which is what we all want.”
Laporta is now faced with the monumental task of helping Barcelona regain its former glory. First and foremost, however, is the small matter of trying to get Messi to sign a new contract at the club.
The Argentine’s deal runs out at the end of the season, and he is currently free to enter into negotiations with other clubs over a potential move in the summer. Messi made public his desire to leave the ‘Blaugrana’ last summer, and it has been looking increasingly unlikely he will sign a new contract.
Laporta is also tasked with having to balance the books, with Barcelona currently facing crippling debts of more than one billion dollars. Due to its financial woes, many of the most important figures in the playing squad were sold last summer, leading to a weakened team on the pitch.
While things have certainly improved of late under head coach Ronald Koeman – Barça has won 13 of its last 16 matches and reached the Copa del Rey final – the 4-1 first-leg defeat to Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League proved once again that the team is well below the standard of its European rivals.
Still, amid the celebrations and champagne, Laporta was bullish about the team’s chances of inflicting another historic comeback on PSG.
“Now, let’s go to Paris and see if we can make another ‘remontada’ happen!”