By María Bretones Merino
A second FC Barcelona 'Dream Team'. A repeat of what Johan Cruyff achieved in 1991/92 in winning Barcelona the European Champion Clubs' Cup for the first and so far only time. That is the dream of the club's new president, Joan Laporta.
After a season where Barcelona flirted with relegation before scraping into the UEFA Cup, while arch-rivals Real Madrid claimed their 29th Spanish title, the club needed a fillip. And the upbeat ambition of Laporta, who came from nowhere to win the club's presidential election on the back of an audacious deal with Manchester United FC to sign David Beckham, has provided just that. Beckham may have opted for Champions League football with Madrid, but Laporta still has big plans.
Cruyff is more than just an inspiration for Laporta. It was on the back of the Dutchman's sacking as coach in 1996 that Laporta founded the independent Elefant Blau supporters' movement and emerged as the leading critic of the club's hierarchy. That, along with the Beckham agreement, gave him the base from which he snatched the Barcelona presidency from favourite Lluis Bassat. Laporta now considers Cruyff his adviser, and has turned to another Dutchman - Frank Rijkaard - as coach.
Laporta, a 40-year-old lawyer, knows he is in for a tough job, having to both provide high-profile new signings and service the club's estimated €55m debt that forced them to drop out of the bidding for Ronaldinho. However, as he reveals to uefa.com, he is not daunted by that task.
uefa.com: What is your vision for a new Barcelona?
Joan Laporta: I want the club to become the symbol of Catalonia in Europe and in the rest of the world. The history of this club is too big to let it fall as it has been falling in the past months.
We need to break with the past, with all those years of misery.
uefa.com: How hard has Real Madrid's recent success has been for Barcelona?
Laporta: The first thing to start with is abandoning the inferiority complex Barcelona supporters have been feeling compared with Real Madrid. That is not the way to make Barcelona a top-class club.
uefa.com: You reached an agreement with Manchester United to sign David Beckham but the player finally signed for Real Madrid. Do you consider it the first failure of your career as new president?
Laporta: Not at all.
I never promised that Beckham would come to Barcelona. I just reached an agreement with Manchester but I found it an impossible handicap to persuade his agents. When I realised that, then I focused on another targets.
uefa.com: What are those targets now?
Laporta: My plan is still to bring two big stars and two or three good players. We have also found a good coach in Frank Rijkaard to lead this project. We really have faith in him.
uefa.com: What about the youth set-up?
Laporta: Of course that will be a very important part of the plan. I want players who identify with the shirt and the youth players are that. In fact, I want them to be the basis of the team.
uefa.com: How do you plan to solve the club's financial problems?
Laporta: I have promised I will clear the debts in just one year and I will. We just need to be cautious in signings, reduce the wage bill and sell several players.
We cannot keep paying the amount we have been.
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