Removing a board that has been duly elected is no easy task, though. If Barcelona agrees that enough signatures have been collected — Duch expects between 5 and 10 percent of the ballots will be rejected — a minimum of 10 percent of Barcelona’s more than 140,000 members must participate in the vote of no confidence. In that vote, the motion would need a two-thirds majority to pass.
Still, the censure motion appears to have attracted widespread support, including from three candidates seeking to replace Bartomeu, whose current six-year mandate does not expire until next spring, and also the former president Joan Laporta, who oversaw the team’s rise to success under the former coach Pep Guardiola and a clutch of homegrown talent that included Messi.
Victor Font, a technology entrepreneur and one of the front-runners to replace Bartomeu, has pressed the importance of immediate change, suggesting that if elections are not held before the end of the year, Messi could renew his effort to leave the club. Messi can sign a precontract agreement with another team as soon as January; Manchester City was among the suitors who expressed interesting in signing him last month.
“I thought the defeat in Lisbon was the bottom, but the bottom-bottom was having the best player in the history of the sport, who has been 20 years in the club, wanting to leave after such a defeat and through the back door,” Font said in a recent interview.
Whoever emerges as Barcelona’s leader will face a slew of immediate issues beyond the fate of Messi. The club’s finances, including the world’s largest player payroll, will need to be re-evaluated; key sponsorship agreements — including with the team’s principal sponsor, Rakuten — will be up for renewal; a contentious and hugely expensive stadium refurbishment will need to be addressed; and, perhaps most important for the team’s fans, the roster will need to be rebuilt. But so will the club’s battered image.
Bartomeu took over in 2014, stepping up from a vice president’s role after his ally Sandro Rosell was forced to step down amid claims of improper conduct in the signing of the Brazilian forward Neymar. Earlier this month, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that the police in Catalonia were investigating Bartomeu for corruption.