Messi and Barça’s reputational crisis
PHOTO BY MANUEL QUEIMADELOS ALONSO/ GETTY IMAGES
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The fact that the best soccer player of all time wants to leave Barça proves that talent is not enough, when there is not a project and a strategy to shape it. In the Messi era, in the Xavi and Iniesta era, in the Puyol and Piqué era, Real Madrid has increased the distance with Barça in relation to the Champions League trophies.

Talent, intelligence, and individual abilities vanish when there is not a mission, a purpose and a professional structure underneath, that gives them meaning and that gives the club the moral strength that only trust and reputation provide. And this is something that goes far beyond the pitch.

In recent weeks, a lot has been written about the club’s sporting, economic and institutional crisis. But there is another crisis that is the cause and origin of all the rest: the reputational crisis. We live in an economy of intangibles. The value of a football club, like any company, is not only determined by its physical assets, but also by the perceptions of its stakeholders.

Interest groups constituted by hundreds of thousands of club members and followers around the world, advertisers, sponsors, large television networks, that may or may not fight for the broadcasting rights, and investment groups that are thinking about whether or not to risk their money in a future, strategic project for the club.

The key to success in the medium term lies in doing things in such a way as to increase the reputation of the brand. Only in this way can large institutions improve their differential value with respect to their competitors, and their credibility and admiration among stakeholders. Reputation creates or destroys value.

If we take as a reference the total value of all listed companies in Europe and the United States, it is estimated that more than 50% of their market capitalization is determined by the intangible of their reputation. Business organizations and large sports clubs no longer compete with each other by means of their finances and size, but also by attaining and maintaining the respect, trust and admiration that make possible the support of interest groups, which are, in short, the most responsible factors for their financial results.

The value of the brand

Fortunately, Barça is not a public limited company. At least, until now. But just because it is not a company, it does not mean that it can function outside the laws of business management and the logic of the market.

Barcelona’s project has worked when it has responded to an idea, to a purpose, to a model; and it has stopped working when things have been done by inertia and without any criteria.

From Cruyff to Messi, when Barcelona Football Club has remained faithful to that recognizable project, and to a clear and precise idea of ​​football and quality, titles have arrived, stability has been the norm and Barça’s reputation has established itself as a valuable asset, envied by many around the world.

When the institution has stopped identifying with its values, has stopped recognizing itself in the idea that gives the meaning and has been more afraid of losing its talent than the will to shape it, then failure has arrived in all areas. Also in sports’.

But the defeats on the football fields, and even more so the painful and continued losses -that happened in recent editions of the Champions League- are the effect of much deeper causes, which end not only in a defeat, but also in the loss of reputational and economic solvency.

The recruits are important, and any team depends on its stars. Also, Barça. But the club will not see the light back thanks to a new striker. Only by concentrating on its idea, when being able to provide a professional, coherent and convincing form.

The next club president will have to lead, together with the technical team, with the renewal of the squad. But, above all, he or she will have to rebuild the business structure and return to the idea that has made Barça a club of success and world prestige.

In the context of the economic crisis, it will also be essential for the new president and his o her board to be able to project the club and multiply the value of the brand, to manage relationships effectively and with maximum transparency, and to work every day to gain everyone’s admiration again. Anxiety about titles leads to defeat. The overpaid acquisition of stars is an exhibitionist and often sterile manner of some Arab sheiks. Positive results only come by persisting in intelligence and quality. Reputation has no shortcuts.

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