The Fiver | Remember when FC Barcelona was a second-rate institution


Childhood friends of Granny Fiver will remember the days when FC Barcelona was a thoroughly second-rate institution. Also-rans in La Liga. A regular embarrassment in Europe. A manager who didn’t quite cut it in England. An Argentinian genius whose career was in danger of going to waste if he didn’t get the hell out quicksmart. But times change, and, er, erm. Whatever, Barça are now one of the top draws in the world, as evidenced by the sheer volume of trouser-bothering laughter generated by their increasingly inventive capers in Big Cup. Hey, we wouldn’t be down the laundromat every other week if they were nobodies.

But things haven’t been quite right at Camp Nou for a while now, and as a result, club president Josep Maria Bartómeu has been forced to ¡Do One! Technically he’s leaving of his own volition, but this comes one day after his insistence that “there is no reason to present my resignation”, so you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to conclude that other factors are at work. Almost 20,000 other factors, to be precise, those being the club members who petitioned to force a no-confidence referendum. Even though he would only need a third of the vote to survive, Bartomeu had no realistic prospect of even getting a quarter. That’s 25%. A ratio of 2-8.

Bartomeu’s valedictory speech took the form of a dirty protest. Labouring under the misapprehension that folk are willing to take business guidance from a guy who has overseen three consecutive European capitulations, has replaced Neymar and Luis Suárez with Martin Braithwaite, and is facing the possibility of civil action over the shortfall in the club’s budget during his administration, Bartomeu announced the “extraordinary news” that Barcelona had signed up to a new European Super League. As if the malodorous mess he left behind at Camp Nou wasn’t enough!

Thankfully, an instant cleaning-up operation was launched by La Liga president Javier Tebas, who dismissed the mooted Super League as “a weak and imaginary competition which would be their ruin … it confirms Bartomeu’s ignorance about the football industry … a sad end for a president with successes and lately many mistakes.” A salvo which in a rational world should put an end to a majestically dim idea supported by exactly 0% of fans … though no doubt another soulless money-mad mandarin will be along in a minute to take up Bartomeu’s wacky scheme and run with it, attempting to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs in order to wipe himself with its down.


Hot Big Cup action ahoy! Join Scott Murray for Krasnodar 1-2 Chelsea at 5.55pm GMT and Paul Doyle for Manchester United 1-1 RB Leipzig at 8pm GMT.


“It’s always been our goal to serve the best ingredients for the most memorable occasions so we’re incredibly proud to be supporting such a great football competition” – Papa John’s suit Giles Codd on the announcement that the EFL Trophy is to become the Papa John’s Trophy.

Recent memorable occasions in the EFL Trophy:
December 2016
Coventry record lowest-ever crowd for first-team game
November 2017 Bradford and Charlton record lowest-ever crowd for first-team game
October 2018 Port Vale, Oxford and Walsall record lowest-ever crowd for first team game
September 2019 Firewall FC record lowest-ever crowd for first team game
November 2019 Lowest attendance in history of the competition recorded as 202 watch Burton v Middlesbrough U21s

Fans cram into the Ricoh Arena for EFL Cup action
Fans cram into the Ricoh Arena for EFL Cup action. Photograph: Pete Norton/Getty Images


“First feeling is really grateful and one of the small dreams is coming true. I am just super happy, you play Tottenham and José Mourinho, you don’t get to do that every five minutes. Who am I to talk about Mourinho? When Mourinho was winning the Champions League, I was watching, waiting for 8.45pm to watch his games. I am just super happy my team plays against him” – anyone who thinks Antwerp will be suffering from an inferiority complex when they rock up to face Spurs in the Europa League on Thursday, um … well, they may well be right if manager Ivan Leko’s comments are anything to go by.


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“Being from Canada, and not having heard of Brown’s Socialhouse, I followed the link provided by Thabo Caves [Tuesday’s Fiver letters]. Turns out is is mainly a Western Canadian chain, so has not yet made it to my end of the country. What was notable in the link to their Social Media Disgrace Twitter account was that they were very lively and enjoying success up until mid-March, but appear to have done nothing of note since. Thabo was indeed correct that the similarities to Barça are endless” – Scott Henderson.

“Whilst I’m sure that you can bate breath [Tuesday’s Bits and Bobs], I’m pretty sure you can’t tenter a hook as a tenterhook is a noun all on its own. I’ll get my coat” – Katie Maddock.

Send your letters to And you can always tweet The Fiver via @guardian_sport. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’the day is … Scott Henderson.


League Two Southend have settled their tax debt and a winding-up petition against them has been dismissed.

Diego Maradona is self-isolating after one of his bodyguards displayed symptoms of Covid-19, according to Argentina’s state-run news agency Telam.

Tyrone Mings has welcomed launch of FA’s new diversity code.


Daniel Harris selects a Premier League Likable XI – and the perfect manager to lead them.

Bournemouth’s Jack Stacey gets his chat on with Ben Fisher.

Two spells at the same club: who waited longest between debut goals? The Knowledge has the answer.

Kai Havertz has started slowly for Chelsea but he will come good soon, promises Josh Wright

Oh, and if it’s your thing … you can follow Big Website on Big Social FaceSpace. And INSTACHAT, TOO!


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