MADRID: No sooner have the celebrations in Barcelona finished than the political in-fighting has begun.
Last week the Catalan capital was the scene of euphoric, noisy celebrations as Ronaldinho and company took Barca to their first Spanish league title since 1999.
This week the flags have been put away and the knives have come out of the cupboard.
A long-postponed, simmering battle between the “Dutch” faction and the “Brazilian” faction has finally broken out into the open, making supporters worried about the short-term future of the club.
Two years ago ambitious young lawyer Joan Laporta won a landslide victory in the club's presidential elections mainly due to his ability to bring together these two factions.
His chief sporting advisor was Johan Cruyff. The former Camp Nou idol told Laporta to sign up a Dutch coach. Guus Hiddink and Ronald Koeman both turned the job down so, on Cruyff's recommendation, Frank Rijkaard was brought in.
Laporta's running mate in the elections - the young former Nike executive Sandro Rosell – would have preferred a Brazilian coach. Indeed, Rosell then proceeded to pack Rijkaard's squad with Brazilians like Ronaldinho, Edmilson, Juliano Belletti, Deco and Sylvinho.
In December 2003, when things were going badly wrong for Rijkaard, Rosell tried to replace him with former Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Laporta, advised by Cruyff, decided to stand by Rijkaard – and has just been rewarded with the title.
Rijkaard kept his silence until last week, when, emboldened by the “Liga” success, attacked Rosell for being “unfaithful” and “difficult to work with”.
Laporta has also opened up with both barrels on former friend Rosell, and has hinted that the latter might be axed from his board.
On Monday evening Cruyff denied that he was “the detonator of the crisis”, but implicitly had a dig at Rosell by saying that “a director should never make any signings ... This should be the job of (sporting director) Txiki Begiristian, in conjunction with Rijkaard.”
Begiristain, part of Cruyff's 1990s “Dream Team”, originally appeared to be close to Rosell but now seems to have moved into the “Dutch” camp – maybe sensing which way the Camp Nou wind is blowing.
Rosell has so far refused to answer the criticisms. He has said that he will decide within a month whether to continue as vice president.
Rosell is very popular with the Barca fans for having made so many effective signings. Many of these fans are now worried that Ronaldinho and his compatriots might consider leaving the club, if the man who signed them is pushed out.
On Monday evening the digital version of influential sports paper Mundo Deportivo expressed the hope that “this debilitating crisis is resolved quickly ... so that the planning for next season can continue in tranquillity.” – dpa