Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Ugly Side of 'Beautiful' Barca

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Ugly Side of 'Beautiful' Barca

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Evans @tonyevans92a

MES QUE UN CLUB. Imagine if Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, or Real Madrid had 'more than a club' as their motto. It would be laughable. Yet Barcelona roll out this axiom with a straight face. They are loved for it.

In one sense, the Catalan club are right. Barca are a rapacious moneymaking operation with an eye on global domination. They have managed to make people believe they are underdogs. That they care. It's the biggest con job since the devil convinced the world he didn't exist.

They are a very good team. Their arrival to play Arsene Wenger's Arsenal is almost like a royal visit. Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are adored. Does anyone care that prosecutors allege Messi and Neymar swerved tax like they drift past defenders? The Argentinian faces a trial at the end of May and his father has already made a [euro]5million voluntary "corrective payment" to authorities. Neymar has had PS31m of assets frozen by a Brazilian court. It makes Suarez's record of biting opponents and racial abuse of Patrice Evra look low rent.

Watch Barcelona. Their sense of entitlement is stunning. They whinge to the referee constantly. Sergio Busquets is one of the worst culprits. He is a superb defensive midfielder but his combination of snide fouls and play-acting undermine his brilliance. Barca dive, flounce and complain and that's when they're on top.

The ugliness of the club goes deeper than players, though. Traditionally, they saw themselves as flagbearers of Catalan identity. The club's website claims: "Barca became symbolic of democracy and anti-centralism." It may have been true under the rule of Generalissimo Franco but no one seems to have told them that the fascist dictator died 41 years ago. How does this commitment to democratic beliefs square with Barcelona's close and lucrative relationship with Qatar? The club carried no advertising on their shirts until 2006, when they decided to wear a UNICEF logo. …

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