Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Football Mood Daily: Should Barcelona leave La Liga to French league?

Is this the map of 2015?

“We do not have the possibility of a competitive league. There would be very few teams and we would have to join another league – we could adhere to the Spanish league or perhaps the French league.”

Thats what Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias replied when asked about the future of Catalan clubs incase his wish -and many- turned real and Catalunya became an independent country.

It worth noting that Catalans' independence will not be a walk at the park by any means. Catalan main parties announced this month that the voting for independence will take place November 9, 2014 regardless of the spanish desire to prevent such voting from taking place at any cost. The fact that most polls suggest over 57% of catalans will vote for independence makes it a case of life or death for Spanish central government.

Make no mistake, not only Catalunya is the golden fish in Spain's existence - injects € 17 billion every year in Madrid's government pocket, but it is also the state that may hold the whole kingdom's destiny. If Catalunya achieves independence, there is no reason to doubt other states may follow. In fact, such movement for independence will not be welcomed on the european stage. There are concerns this will create a trend (After Scotland's movement for independence) that other "nations" within european countries will catch the infection, from the basque to Bavaria. 

Even if it happens that Catalunya gains independence, there will be another battle negotiating with the EU to become a member - knowing that this will not be a given. The concerns mentioned above may push many European countries to complicate Catalunya's attempt to join the EU. It fits the current Europian countries (Such as Germany) to send a clear message to other ambitious "nations" within the established countries to not make an attempt to follow that path.

This is where it is still unclear how the Catalan clubs will deal with this period, pending EU membership. Will they survive playing a domestic competition till a decision is made? It is yet to be clear whether such clubs involvement in the europe's continental competitions will have to wait till the EU membership is decided. That means, they will not be able to play in any league in europe, be it Spain or france where the table decides who plays in Continental clubs' competitions.

If we put all the mentioned challenges and concerns aside, will it be better for Barcelona (Catalan clubs) to play in La Liga (Spanish leagues) or get into the french league?

Should I, or should I not, Barça wonders?

Such possibility is not a first. Existing examples like Swansea City, Cardiff City, and most appropriate (for this case) AS Monaco all plays in the leagues manages by/in other countries. If Catalan clubs ended up playing their own independent league they will no doubt be in the losing end compared to Spain. La Liga will no doubt lose a lot but not as much as FC Barcelona and Espanyol will incase such arrangement took place. On the other hand, If Catalan clubs joined french leagues, the mentioned clubs and french football will benefit immensely, which may encourage Platini and co to do their best for that alternative to happen.

For the french national team, this will boost the french squads from youth to first team with quality that will make France the football nation to beat. We are talking here about the backbone of the victorious Spanish football, the golden generation, added to the quality already representing France.

For Ligue one, Adding FC Barcelona (and Espanyol) to the likes of PSG, AS Monaco will boost the value of the league in general on many levels. First, the competition for the title will be as good - if not better- than current La Liga. Secondly, any football fan in the world will be immensely interested to follow the league, not only for the mentioned three teams games against each other but also to watch how FC Barcelona will perform against the rest of the french teams (where almost every game is the first in history to happen). Another team that will create an amazing match up with FC Barcelona is Marseille. This is obviously not the best team in France but is still the one with biggest fanbase and the match against the Catalans guarantee a crazy atmosphere in the stadium. In fact, this will be the phenomena across the league for every club facing FC Barcelona.

All that will be translated to money. TV return and stadium attendance and overall commercial value for the league. Even for Barça fans, it will be more entertaining to watch the club against Nantes, Toulouse, Montpellier, etc... instead of the Spanish middle to weak Spanish opponents, not for any reason but the new experience.

The normal question is: What about el clasico? There is no match like FC Barcelona Real Madrid. Yet, I am not sure how comfortable will it be for Catalan clubs in general to play in the league of a country they divorced. I assume the clasico matches will be more nasty than we ever witnessed. That is why, it may end up being more exciting if it happens every once and while in the champions league rather than four times or more every year. In fact, it will be good if the two teams do not meet in the first couple of seasons after Catalan independence, giving a chance for the storm to pass.

FC Barcelona's network in Spain is well established and it provides La Masia with the talents needed for the longterm success of the club. Getting into French football may provide another stream of young talents of different characters and attributes that may perfect the squads and prove an added value.

However, lot of questions will occur if such transition happens. In Spain, FC Barcelona - with Real Madrid- earns a lot from TV rights and other financial streams that may not be available for Barça in France for the short and middle term. Clubs like PSG and AS Monaco may have a better financial position than the Catalan club. In the other hand, how will the rest of french football community view the catalan clubs? Outsiders? What impact will that make on the little things that play a big deal in the fairness of competition? How far getting away from the continuos rivalry with Real Madrid slowdown the improvement of Barça, knowing that the two rivals were the reason both kept on growing? How far will we miss some of the most exciting games in La Liga like the matches against Athletic Bilbao, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla...

Yet, Sandro Rosell's respond to what Barcelona's Mayor suggested (Quoted above) leaves no doubt about the future for the current Board of Barça:

“There is no tradition, no rivalry with French football. To me, what the Barcelona mayor said is unbelievable.”
Unleash your football fantasies and visualize the future of Barça in either of the two leagues and decide where you wish Messi and co to dominate!

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