Barça president Joan Laporta: Our goal is winning the La Liga
Taking advantage of the competitive break for the World Cup, Laporta sat down with SPORT to analyze the first three months of the season.
Joan Laporta, president of FC Barcelona, engaged SPORT in his office. His face betrays a mixture of tiredness and satisfaction. He is surrounded by frenetic activity, a byproduct of his position, and the tension caused by a summer full of momentous decisions.
The start of the season has been full of shocks.
The pressure will be off from now on thanks to the break for the 2022 World Cup. Although he will continue to be involved in the direct management of the club.
Question: We arrive at the World Cup break with having seen two sides of Barça: leader in La Liga and eliminated in the Champions League in the group stage. How do you assess these first three months of competition in sporting terms? Is it a failure not to be in the round of 16 of the Champions League for the second consecutive season?
Answer: I evaluate this first phase of the season positively. The team has improved and is becoming more competitive, although it is still a work in progress. But it has already begun to garner great expectations. This year's priority is the league.
We always set out with maximum objectives and we would have liked to continue in the Champions League, but circumstances have made it impossible for us to do so. It was a hard blow. But I insist, the objective is the League and we hope that we continue on the right path. The stats look good so far. We are in with a fighting chance of winning the title.
Q: Has finishing 2022 as leaders of La Liga generated a sense of tranquillity in the club after so many months of maximum tension?
A: The club is permanently active, it is very dynamic, and being a multisport club, there is always competition and we have to be always on alert. But, certainly, this Christmas we will be able to celebrate it as leaders of the League and that is very important for the tranquillity of all, so that the team takes confidence and believes in itself, which is very important.
In Pamplona, they showed the mettle of champions, that they have the character to overcome adversity and that they want to win this league.
At any time during these three months has Xavi's continuity as coach been questioned?
Not at any point in time. We have complete confidence in Xavi as a coach. And I can assure you that we are very proud of the coach we have. He is a coach who knows the club very well, who knows the moment at which he has arrived. In addition, he knows how to communicate with the different members of the club about everything that can be improved.
Barça have invested more than 200 million euros in signings between the winter and summer markets. What is your assessment of all the signings made? Have they met expectations?
All the signings have met the expectations so far. There is still a lot of room for improvement. There are players who, for various reasons, we haven't been able to see at their best, such as Christensen, Kessie or Bellerín. But we have full confidence in them. Raphinha is a great addition, he gives us strength and an outlet on the wing, along with Dembélé, who we have renewed. The addition of Lewandowski has been fundamental for this team to be a champion and achieve many successes.
Lewandowski has the gift of scoring goals and the ability to always be aware of his teammates and to give good advice. He is a serious, responsible man, who carries himself very well. Koundé has been a great success. From the first moment, he has earned the trust of all Barcelona fans for the protection he provides. He is a very consistent central defender.
Marcos Alonso, whom we signed as a full-back, has had to play out of position and he is doing an excellent job. Pablo Torre is a very young player but Xavi is following him closely and is giving him minutes. They have all adapted very well to Barça's system, which is authentic, which is distinct, and which we defend above all, although sometimes there is the temptation or the debate as to whether it should evolve. We are in favour of maintaining this model because it makes us unique. If we were to shift to a more physical model we would be just like any other team. That's why the immediate performance of Lewandowski or Koundé, for example, has a lot of merits.
Both you and the club's sporting directors have already announced that there will be signings in the winter transfer window. Will that be the case?
In the summer we set out with some plans and practically all the objectives were achieved. We have a more competitive and balanced team than last season. We are constantly thinking about how to improve it. Injuries have not allowed us to see the full potential of this team with all the new signings.
To sign in winter we would have to incorporate players to improve what we have and it is not easy, especially taking into account that we still have fair play problems due to the elimination from the Champions League, which has reduced our budgeted income and LaLiga has already warned us that we will have to pay more for the team.