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Hello and welcome to The Stand with Ayman Dumphy.

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The stand is proudly supported by Tesco and Tesco, our exclusive ours for over 65 family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine a.m.. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times now more than ever. Every little helps.

[00:00:36]

Now, last Friday night and the quarter final of the Champions League, something quite shocking and remarkable happened. Bayern Munich and beat Barcelona eight two and the quarterfinal. And it was the worst defeat Barcelona have experienced going back to the 50s and maybe even to the 40s. But my next guest will tell us about that. That's Richard Fitzpatrick. And this is huge. It's more than football and Barcelona are more than a football club. It's a revered institution in Catalonia.

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And in fact, although the come now where they now play was built in the 50s, 57, I think at the stadium where they played was one of the few places where people could in the Franco years of fascism, where they could speak their own language, the Catalan language, and indeed sometimes at their chant anti Franco slogans. It's a loved institution in Catalonia. And we're joined now, as I say, by Richard Fitzpatrick, an Irishman who lives there and works as a journalist.

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Richard, it would be difficult to overstate the importance of Barcelona Football Club and to the Catalan people, wouldn't it?

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It's a massive part of their their identity and their heritage. I mean, it's it's the big cultural institution they have. Everybody refers to it. And it's an absolutely football mad city. But on top of that, you have this Catalan separatist aspect to the mix. So even, for example, last year before the coronaviruses and the Catalan independence movement to be getting force, there had been rioting at the airport back in October. They had to reschedule the classical, which was due to be paid in October, twenty to December.

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And when that game went to heads and there was rioting outside the stadium, one of the gates was damaged. Fans tried to stampede one of the entrances into the stadium and a huge bonfires. You could smell the smoke inside in the stadium towards the end of the game from the bonfires that have been lit outside the stadium. And rioting went on for an hour or two after the game. And it's it's integral to their their sense of being this this football club.

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So on the world stage, to suffer a defeat. So humiliating as the one that happened last night, it was was inexcusable, insufferable for the fans. I mean, we we spoke in the last year after the the defeat to Liverpool Aranjuez for an end to and that was so embarrassing for so many reasons that the fact that they had squandered a train lead and the Keystone Kops defending at that corner kicked by Trent Alexander Arnold. Yes. In a semi-final like this.

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But this is eight goals they've just shipped to bar in Munich. And people's heads are hanging low at the moment. And there's problems all over the club now at an institution level, nothing to do with the composition of the squad. It even extends to the issue of what to do with Messi, since there's there's deep, deep problems here. And it's really embarrassing for for the Catalans.

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Yes, there are a number of things to talk about. One of them being that it seems like Ronald Neumann, a former bass player currently managing the Netherlands and a successful manager with the Netherlands and elsewhere, may be going back. And it's also true that there have been media reports that Lionel Messi has threatened to leave. It's also true, true, Richard, that in 2013, Barcelona lost seven nil to Byron, but it was over two legs in the Champions League semi-final.

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But the eight to it was such a humiliation. And as you point out, coming after the four nil humiliation and unfair last year, it suggests an aging team and serious problems. Let's talk first about before we get to run, Coleman.

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And the situation with Lionel Messi, I mean, you've explained to us before that because of his stature as a player and as a person, really he is although not seeking to be a leader and somebody that's looked to for leadership when the club has a crisis, it isn't the role he seeks. It's not in his kind of DNA. That would be fair to say, wouldn't it?

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Definitely. He's an introvert by nature. And his situation now is is possibly the most worrying aspect in a long list for both the fans. And there was a report that came out on Sunday, I think it was by a really well connected Brazilian journalist, Marcelo Belcher. He was the guy who broke the Neymar transfer story back in twenty seventeen to PSG. And everybody was laughing at him when he leaked the story, including club directors once infamously, who said that Neymar was two hundred percent and staying at the club and he left packed his bags a week or two later.

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And so he is saying this, journalists saying that Messi has told the club that he wants to leave this summer. And we've spoken before on the podcast about his position at the club, his contract. There was a clause and that's allowed him to go to the club for free at the end of this season, which was technically June 30th. But once that date passed, he automatically renewed for another year. So he has a contract until twenty, twenty one.

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But what this journalist is saying is that he wants to leave now. Things have changed a small bit since then. That was Sunday. And the board have met and they've decided to bring forward presidential elections and may or may not know. The person is a club run by its members and its president is elected every six years.

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And by members, you mean fans. I mean the fans have power, real power. Exactly. Exactly. It's a it's a great model for the club then. But Real Madrid are on along the same lines and it's about and the German clubs there. Fifty one percent fan owned. And so the fans run the club essentially forced. The flipside is that it makes for a very fragile political environment. There's always sniping going on, always pretenders to the throne.

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And so it makes a really, really fragile political environment. And so what this incumbent president is doing is man has done is his mandate will run out at the end of next March when these elections have been brought forward until then. But what's the kind of peace or the olive branch? It is too messy or what it represents for Messi is that he won't have to renew his contract, which has been a big elephant in the room at the club.

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He won't have to renew that contract with the incumbent. He can wait until next March and after the election. If, as people are the diehard fans of the club are hoping that a new president will come in. The frontrunner is a guy called Victor Font's, businessman who has been based in the Middle East. He's a Catalan guy. And on his ticket, he is Javier Hernandez as his new coach. And he also has connections with that party, all which are the kind of more in the long term.

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The Pep Guardiola would return as a kind of head of the youth academy and put that Javier Hernandez. He is seen as the voice in shining armor that would come to save the situation. But look, the problems are very deep seated, so we don't know what's going to happen with Messi. He's we have this noise coming from his camp that is unhappy talking about leaving and he's on holidays now. And it would be difficult to get a deal done for him.

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Like there are only a handful of clubs that will have the money working on the finances of it will be very difficult. He would obviously command a big transfer fee, even though he's he's thirty three. And so last week there were reports that the Inter Milan had had tabled a bid. They were going to wait until next year until his contract ends and he could go on a free transfer. They'd pay two hundred and sixty million over five years them.

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So I would watch that space over the next month or two to the transfer window finishes on October 5th, I think. So let's see what happens.

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I saw last night they did beat their opponents five nil. But the opponents chatter Donetsk's or weren't very good. It was in semifinal league. I'm sure you know the result, actually, Young was playing and. But they're not really a team, I think, that could accommodate. He's too good, but there is an obvious problem. If you look at the squad, Richard, and its age, I mean, Messi is 33 and of course, he is remarkable and still remarkable.

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But others like P.K. Suarez and Suarez is also thirty three players to Sergio Busquets at 30, to Jordi Alba, who's a very good back. Thirty one. So age is a real issue, isn't it? And particularly in key positions. I mean, in the end, defensive midfield and key positions.

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And of course, with Luis Suarez up front, it really means that they're going to have to add the Messiah or Messi Alamsyah, which is their academy, which produced so many of these great players. Javi Iniesta isn't producing great players anymore. So and there's a large check that needs to be written and we have to wonder if they have the money, because, I mean, they spent they spent a lot of money and trying to refresh the team and on Griezmann cost one hundred and twenty million euros somewhere he didn't start against by Munich and then barely it cost one hundred million euros.

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Plus he sat the whole game out on the bench. Philip Coutinho, who cost one hundred and fifty million euros from Liverpool and came off the bench for Brian last week, where he's on loan and scored two goals. So they have wasted a lot of money. How much have they got? Have they got the resources to rebuild this club?

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Yeah, it's particularly the new one is very embarrassing. He stands to cost the club of five million bonus that will be paid to Liverpool if he wins the Champions League this year. Which part? In Munich there was a clause in one of the variations was that, yeah, they didn't specify which club yet to win the Champions League. Now they're going to win it. Yeah, yeah.

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It looks like it. And the, the age profile, erm that's a huge problem. You mentioned earlier about that having seven nil aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich back in 2013. The club was saying if there are elements of a similar crisis in 2014, 12 months after the Berson Champions League to face the bar and they had just finished the following season, they've won no major trophies and the club was screaming for an overhaul. These guys have been on the road a long time at this stage.

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And so they went out to the markets. The true money at the problem. They got Luis Suarez, who's already been in space for six years, his third highest court score in embassies. History is a huge success. They bought their stake in the goalkeeper. They bought it even rackety choose the best player probably in the league at that season from Silva. He came in, slotted into the team, kept Javi out of the team job. He was used as a as a number twelve that season, and they ended up winning a triple.

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But the thing was, one of the things was they obviously had that money to spend. And they also the age profile. Yes. Those guys have more on the clock. Peekapoos gets messy, although there were only twenty six, twenty seven and even at the time was thirty, but they got another four years out of him so he was still at the top of his game. He was captain triple winning season. But the money is the problem around this time.

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And if a huge overhaul to make on the squad and what they're really scrambling. And you mentioned those three expensive signings over the last couple of years and continued Amberleigh and Griezmann, the press were roaring about this at the weekend, you know, three hundred and fifty million on the bench. Yeah. That they haven't succeeded in replenishing the squad even when they have that money. And now with the coronavirus they're already thrown at. The president said a week or two ago, two hundred million from the season that it's just finished, that excludes the bonus money that they would have got for proceeding in the Champions League, another 30 or 40 million.

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And next season he's saying they'll be down thirty percent. That's a that's an optimistic enough scenario. And Valencia, during the week, their general manager said that the club will be down fifty percent of their revenue next season. And the football industry is it's it's kind of it's a it's a bit of a denial both. This is particularly in Spain. The impact that this coronavirus is going to have on the income of these big plots, that because I don't think it's worth pointing out they don't have the television money and that the Premier League clubs have and it's shared on a pro-rata basis, depending on how well you do.

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But the bottom club in the Premier League gets one hundred and fifty million, whereas in Spain and as I understand it, Real Madrid and Barcelona, who feature every week anyway that they keep their own money, is that right?

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No, that was the system until about five years ago. And the justices, they even brought in a law and order in the country to make the system more equitable. Share the pie is still weighted towards Suburban and Madrid, and those smaller clubs live on beans compared to the likes of the English Premier League clubs in the bottom half of the table. But put bars that don't they won't have that income next season. They're already really struggling to balance the books.

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And one of these things that the board met yesterday to decide on a few measures like the coach and one of the issues was this election, the fans to an election immediately. But what they agreed to was to bring it forward a few months to March. And this March date is important. The reason they chose March was because they can get in the two transfer windows at this summer and in January to try and balance the books because the outgoing board would be on the hook for any any discrepancy in the tests that the club's hiring.

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So those guys want to sell, sell, sell, and it's a really difficult market. Now, like we say, there's no guarantee you spend three hundred and fifty million on the Milan Griezmann and that doesn't work. They'll go and they'll try and sell all those old players who are some of them are on crazy. Teams like Albert renewed his contract last season. He's done a deal until twenty twenty four gets the same twenty, twenty three and gets Fidel Tambellup racket, which they're all in 10 million net salaries.

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We've seen this across Europe. The big clubs can't get rid of these expensive old players. Yes, I in an arsenal bill in terms of Real Madrid. So that's the problem. Barcelona have no and and yeah they have academies, academy players coming through a couple of interesting ones. Ricky Pu's kind of looking to invest in midfield. Very exciting player. And Safadi, a 17 year old forward, but they're still young guys we don't know like to say in Spain, it's like the Melen until we open the middle and we don't know what it will be like.

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It's one of the things we do know. What it's like is as Ronald Coleman welcoming a very respected, outstanding player for Barcelona and had an outstanding career as a coach as well, and has done wonders with the present, the team he has at the moment, the Netherlands. I understand he's resigned. I'm given notice to the Netherlands and also that he is going to be the new coach, that it's official. Is that accurate? Yeah, you're ahead of me there.

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And I didn't know he had handed in his notice. But, yeah, the reports were this morning that in the press that he was he was seeking that. So, yeah. Well, he's he's a shoo in. He'll be unveiled either tomorrow or Thursday.

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When you have an aging squad but an experienced squad and you don't have the resources required to go and buy the best as they've been able to do for almost a generation. Now, the experience of Coman will be important.

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Yeah, it's an interesting appointment, like you mentioned there at the outset of both the the Catalan identity and. Yeah, and it feeds into his selection actually as coach because over the weekend, the front runner and the president's choice and the Sporkin director's choice, Eric, up it up was worth your patiño. He lives in the city. He's a good friend with the president there. Kids go to the same school, but he had bloodedness copybook in trying to distance himself from rumors that he was going to join Barasat.

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This was a year or two ago when he was Spurs coach. He said that he'd he'd rather work in a firm back in Argentina than manager said, because he's an exceptional player and manager.

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It was a throwaway remark, Espanol being the second team in the city for those who don't know that. Exactly, so it was a throwaway remark and but the people here are so sensitive about those kind of issues and yes, when it came to it at half the border, a lot of board members object to to punch of Tinos appointment because they said the fans will go crazy over us over a kind of identity issue like this. It seems there are bigger issues at play and it had a lot to recommend himself and yeah, to his appointment.

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He's worked in building a building a team with young players. His trajectory is very good. He did very well at Southampton. Then the Spurs better again. And he's a modern coach. Ronald Coleman is. But his managerial CD is a bit like the cure. Say it's good. In part, he's been around the block. No, he has done very well in places. He's won league titles. And in Holland he did a good job as national team coach with Holland.

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He did well at Southampton, but he also has some big black stains. He was run out of Valencia here. There were two points from the relegation zone when he was sacked.

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He was something he shares with Gary Neville. I think he lasted a bit longer than he was. Yeah. Yeah. It wasn't quite as bad as Neville.

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Ignominious, I think Gary Neville's case.

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Yeah, yeah. That was a huge mess. And at Everton, again, they were in the relegation zone when he was sacked. So he's been he's been mentioned going back to twenty three when the managerial appointments becomes vacant at person. And he does have things going for him. And one of those things was the reason boards liked him was because the fans will rally around him. He's an absolute legend in the club. Yeah. Because of his performances over one hundred from defense during his career here, but specifically this fence scholder at Wembley in ninety two winter, their first European Cup.

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And he's a very charismatic guy. Big presence. This where would you imagine will help him in a big club, because it's very strange what's happening now with these big clubs that they're appointing, these figures like Sudan, the famous players. Yeah, Juventus, it seems like a huge, huge punch. And they've gone in with Pirlo. But Koopman comes into that category that he can manage the big egos. You would hope for them. But let's see.

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Tell me that the president back tomorrow. Is that the correct. Yeah.

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What he has done some extraordinary things over the last 12 months, including we think hiring a PR company essentially are a posh idea of a PR company to get involved in social media, criticising Massey and other people in the club and doing it at the bidding of the president.

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Is that true? And if it's true, how come he can even get in the ground? Yeah, and I think it's it's it's pointed that you mentioned getting into the ground, this is one of the things he has in his favor is the new stadium is shut now. So it's going to be a long time until the next March, until this election. Normally, I wouldn't see him surviving until for that length of time, particularly. Obviously, if results go bad next season when Richard he's a businessman, he heads up a kind of engineering firm that does construction work in the air space.

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Kind of. Yeah, that industry. And he's catalin like all these appointments and he is part of the problem. One of the big problems in the club is there's been a civil war institutionally going back to the time Kruijff was not in during the 90s. And between feast does this would be the likes of. And Pep Guardiola would be in that camp. Yes. Javier Hernandez. And they would be very romantic figures in Catalonia to be into this kind of ticky tacky football and then and very pro Catalan and very Catalan separatists and their ideology.

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And then you would have the other half of the house, which are more hard nosed business people. The president who probably despised it was a guy called Newnes who was in power from seventy eight to ten, wasn't a huge patriarchal figure, and did a lot of things in building up the club, which was disliked by the more romantic of the French base. And but his successor, Barthélémy, would be one of his in the line. So, for example, with Pep Guardiola, you know, it's it's a dream for Barsa.

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Fans are a lot of them. The Pep Guardiola would come back to the club in some capacity and be a dream for Manchester City fans.

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Now, you have to stay true to up. Yeah, but he does he would help in this regeneration.

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Um, but he he would have a toxic relationship with the likes of BART, the mayor, and his successor, who his predecessor, who spent two years in prison for a money laundering investigation. Central Rossow, Central Rowsell and his board used to call and this was when Guardiola was the head coach at Burset. They used to call him the Dalai Lama. Dismissive. So we have to wait to hear what the Dalai Lama says in front of him.

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Of course, it is a serious point to point out.

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The gladiola is and was very vocal in the recent Catalan independence movement, was a strong supporter of that movement. Yeah, and that would be a big part of that animosity towards him, not all the of fanbase are pro Catalan independence. So there is this other regime. The current regime would be more and more pluralist. They would be just get business done and don't be distracting ourselves with politics. Let's just make business and get on with it.

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And so they don't have that ideology or the philosophy that the Pep's or the jobby Hernandez those guys would have now, which is just finally, if you look at the history of European football, this is one of the greatest clubs. There's no question about it. And in the last 20 years, they've given us so much. If you look at the list of players like Griezmann and then Ballay, Philip Coutinho, who weren't in the starting 11 last week, and you look at Lionel Messi, of course, and they really have to add.

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Rebuild, but they don't have the money to rebuild.

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The good news might be that Real Madrid are awful at the moment and they were murdered by a bad Manchester City team, really bad Manchester City. Tamarama did beat themselves really with Brown's performance. Is it what happens now? Ron Coleman comes in. My my my best guess would be he'll try to rehabilitate and Griezmann them Ballay Coutinho use the best players he's got.

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There is a suggestion and I want to ask you about this finally, that Messi is a problem in that he has too much influence and that his mates have to play and be favored. And that would be pushcarts and pick up. And of course, Suarez, who is very close to. I think that's. Well, what do you think of that? Is it true?

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Yeah. Yeah, it is. It is true. Yeah, it is.

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For the first time, this question has been taken seriously. No. And should should bite the bullet and move him on. It's it's been asked theoretically and there are a few problems. Yes. There like you, you mentioned that he does have this overpowering, overwhelming presence in the dressing room. And just by dint of his his he's so exceptional and his his bodies would get a free ride of Luis Suarez. Jordi Alba just gets to a lesser extent.

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And so there is an element of that. And there's also the sense that other players diminish in his presence. And yes, Frankie, Deong has been played out of position this season, but you get that sense for him. He's spoken about how he always looks for Messi whenever he gets the ball and Antoine Griezmann as well. There would be an element to that in his case. But the problem is and you can look, there is a very useful reference point here in the situation with Cristiano Ronaldo to two very similar figures in their impact on the game and their presence at both those big clubs.

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Cristiano Ronaldo, previously with Real Madrid and Real Madrid, got rid of him. And like you say, they've been a mess that, yes, the scrambles their way to the title of the season. But the guys who came in to replace him, Eden Hazard, I know it's true injury, but one goal this season, Luca Jarbidge, who has been pound for pound, the biggest flop, and Real Madrid's history, two goals for sixty million.

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He's been there several issues, but he's off the field behavior. And it's the problem with these younger guys that you bring in, like those guys simply haven't worked out at the club or continue wilted under the pressure and love to love tomorrow. Martinez is is a hot target for Barcelona at the moment. The last time you have two goals. Exactly. Yes. But really, you don't know until this guy comes because the pressure is so intense at this club.

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And if you're asking the guy to be Messi successor, can you imagine how much that would weigh on him? And so that's that's a big, big problem. And then the other factor is, and this doesn't apply with Ronaldo. When Ronaldo left, nobody hardly said boo at the club because the club is run by a dominant president. He's like a czar. Yes, he ruled the roost. And yes, the club was always going to be bigger than Ronaldo.

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But that situation is different in Barcelona because of the connection Messi has with the club. Twenty years he's been here in the city and they just absolutely idolising. So there's going to be huge, huge psychic shock. Whenever he does walk away, there will be recriminations like there was when he was let go, when he was in Madrid in two thousand that led to five year trophy. And then and so you have those big emotional problems whenever Messi does leave the club.

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And that will hamper whatever kind of renovation happens, any kind of succession plans.

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OK, Richard, thank you very much for telling us the story. I think of a club that is in meltdown, a great club. Doubtless they'll come back, but there may well be more bad moments before it happens. Richard Fitzpatrick in Barcelona, we're very grateful to you for joining us and to all our listeners and of course, to Tasco, our sponsors. That's all we have time for now. We'll talk to you soon. The stand is proudly supported by Tasco.

[00:32:36]

Tesco are exclusive hours for over 65 family carers and extremely medically vulnerable customers are every weekday, Monday to Friday, up to nine a.m. Health care and emergency services have priority access at all other times.

[00:32:54]

Now, more than ever, every little helps.