FC Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has spoken on a wide range of subjects in an exclusive interview.

Last weekend, it was with Mundo Deportivo that the 57-year-old touched bases and today, it is the turn of rival publication SPORT.

Once more, Bartomeu gave his support to the continuation of current coach Quique Setien, who was brought in mid-January while Barça were still top of the league.

Eventually ceding the title to bitter rivals Real Madrid, there had been speculation that Setien would be axed after merely six months in the role but that now seems unlikely.

“He has a contract,” said Bartomeu. “When we hired him, we explained to him that it was a project for this season and all the following [terms]. Measuring a coach over a a few months, with a pandemic in between, is very complicated. Arturo Vidal has already said it, they [Setien and the players] have had little time to get to know each other and work.”

“No, not at any time,” Bartomeu answered, when asked if he had ever thought about removing Setien as La Liga escaped the club’s clutches. “I know that some information came out saying that if he didn’t win two games we would exchange him for ‘Pimi’ [B team coach Francisco Javier García Pimienta], but that was never discussed. Not with [Eric] Abidal, not with [Ramon] Planes or on the board of directors. Setien is our coach.”

What becomes less probable each passing week approaching 2020/2021, however, given financial difficulties, is the return of Neymar from PSG.

“In this situation, it is unfeasible,” Bartomeu confirmed. “Nor do PSG want to sell him, [which] is normal because he is one of the best players in the world. Last summer we tried very hard, but this summer there will be no attempt. The situation is what it is: the club lost €200mn between March and June. And in the 2020/2021 season, we expected to raise €1.1 billion [in revenue], but surely we will have 30 percent less. If the pandemic situation does not improve, there will be no crowd [at the games], no museum, no stores, and money will continue to be lost. It forces us to be very rigorous in management: we must review which investments are essential and which can wait. You have to adapt.”

In the meantime, though, the Catalans have in essence made seven new signings considering the arrivals of Pedri, Francisco Trincao, Miralem Pjanic and Matheus Fernandes, plus the rise of academy products in Ansu Fati, Riqui Puig, Ronald Araujo.

Bartomeu for one is excited about this new generation and feels like the baton is being passed on from one to another across the first team squad.

“The most beautiful thing about soccer is to combine well those older players who have been winning for many years with those young people who come with the desire to win. The older ones are still ambitious: I’m not just talking about Leo [Messi], but also about [Luis] Suarez, [Gerard] Pique, [Jordi] Alba, [Sergio] Busquets, etc., those players who are already in their thirties, not to mention people like [Clement] Lenglet, [Ousmane] Dembele, [Marc-Andre] Ter Stegen or [Nelson] Semedo, who are [also] young. Now comes another batch of young people: three signed, including Matheus, and three who climb up from the B. The arrival of seven players in a year, counting Pjanic, is not bad – it is a third of the squad.”

“I don’t quite agree when it is said that this group of players who are over 30 years old have lost their ambition,” Bartomeu also revealed. “They are the best. They play very well. They train well, they try hard. They have ambition. The best is the combination: it is veterans combined with those who arrive [now]. They keep intact the ambition, the desire to win and the desire to enjoy [themselves]. And if sometimes they get angry and make comments it is because they are competitive and they want to win.”

Lastly, on Arthur, who has already been sold to Juventus but is still under contract with Barça while having failed to return to duty, Bartomeu said, “He is a player who has a certain importance in the team and who could help us. But he did not return from the minivacations. It is an unacceptable act of indiscipline. And that is why we have opened a case against him, because there is no argument to justify his absence.”

“Arthur was a good player, although not indisputable,” it was said of the Brazilian. “He was a good number ‘twelve’, so to speak. But the sports management department preferred to have Pjanic, who is a player that we have been following for a long time.”


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