Josep María Bartomeu's problems as president of Barcelona are accumulating, and now he is charging against VAR.
The word "populism" has crept in. The RAE says it is used in derogatory terms and defines it as a "political tendency that seeks to attract the popular classes. From Trump to VOX to Podemos. All of their speeches are disqualified as populist because, according to their rivals, they serve to tell the people what they want to hear without any more solid arguments. Well, Barça knows a lot about this in recent times.
Josep María Bartomeu's appearance after the Villareal-Barcelona was like those of Gil, Mendoza or Gaspart decades ago. Tone outbursts at the end of the match at the microphone that were caught in front of him to agitate the masses and point out the culprit. Now all this is done in the same way, but with protocols. On Sunday we were all waiting for Guillermo Amor at the end of the game. Amor is the eternal inexperienced spokesman of the Barça that, by sincere, already has spoken more than what to the interests of its club it was convenient to him. For example, in the case of Griezmann and the meetings of the board with the player while he was a member of Atletico Madrid.
But the machines stopped when it was Bartomeu who stood in front of the microphone to earn points in front of the squad. In front of Messi. Between Setién's lack of leadership and his own lack of charisma, the man who is leading the press is the experienced Pique who calls Arbeloa "known" and who suddenly forgets an ugly gesture about the VAR he made minutes earlier. Bartomeu played the role for Oscar. He put himself in the role of an angry manager because the referees favored his rival. He kicked and cried because VAR is more involved in Real Madrid's game than his team's. And he went home with his head held high. Proud to belong to the midfield. Of being a president of the pile who doesn't understand football, but knows that his mandate is ending and the season has to be saved anyway.
Sanity was put in place by Simeone a day later. Gone are his predictions about how "dangerously prepared" La Liga was for Real Madrid. Now he speaks as a coach, as one of the best in the world. He tells Bartomeu that if Real Madrid gives more work to the VAR it's because they have returned from confinement with a football that allows them to step more in the area. As a statistic, if you spend more minutes on the pitch of your opponent, everything that happens will benefit you.
Real Madrid has already had its VAR moment. It was in the "old normal" when Butragueño said that videoarbitration was "disconcerting". Always with his half smile, always with that low profile of a guy who bothers to talk about referees as much as when he was a player. Ramos also dropped an evening of criticism of the VAR after the Clásico that he fixed by saying "it's our turn to take a penalty and not get reviewed". But Florentino Perez never enters in those. The chosen press will tell us if he calls Rubiales or if he complains to Tebas, but he will never appear before the media to sigh about what might have been. Real Madrid manages this environment better and lets others speak for them about the refereeing. That's how they have decided to play a role they are not very convinced of but are forced to play.
Now it's time to wait for the now defunct RFEF ethics committee to sanction Bartomeu. A committee wiped off the map by Rubiales for wanting to paper Busquets months ago for doubting the referee's work. Rubiales, Barça and Real Madrid go hand in hand and the president of the Federation knows how to take care of his own. If not, you know, apply populist revisionism and remove any reference that Javier Lozano was the Spanish national team when they won two World Cups of indoor football or he disappears from the video tributes to the Spanish team to Iker Casillas himself.
The refs aren't intimidated by any of this. They're living in VAR chokes. They don't know how to use the tool and they pull the manual of corporatism so as not to make a fool of their colleagues. They apply the video when they shouldn't and don't consult when it's obvious they've made a mistake. The level of the braids is not very high. They are well trained, they know the rules (the details that the rest of us don't even know), they position themselves well and they are even too condescending with the cheaters who try to deceive them.
But their role will always be dark. On them will weigh the shadow of Real Madrid and Barcelona, of the black hands or the "villaratos". The refereeing culture in Spain is abysmal. Insults, disrespect and disqualifications in the stands, in the press and in the teams are a bad breeding ground. Bartomeu has crossed that line that no one thinks can be crossed. Now there's a new boundary. Whatever it is. They can always make the melodrama of complaining about the refs better to cover up their hardships. The finger and the moon. Populism and self-criticism.