Rosell, Laporta battle for a new Camp Nou

Posted by Francesc Tomas

Camp Nou is showing signs of its age.AssociatedCamp Nou

Barcelona is a club which has been historically linked to Catalan traditions and culture. Cules are proud individuals who see football not only as a sport, but also a way of understanding life, always looking at reality through the eyes of their beloved club.

• Ledwith: Barcelona self-analyses

Watching the Blaugrana fight for victory in the ageing, yet colossal Camp Nou has become an essential routine to the local community, a necessary tradition which many simply couldn't do without.

Many aspects have changed at Barcelona over the years: presidents, board members, star players, kit makers, shirt design, sponsorship, degree of political involvement … however, there is a constant that has remained unchanged for many years: The Camp Nou.

Inaugurated back in 1957, the breath-taking home of the Blaugrana became the envy of rival supporters across the globe thanks to its unique, innovative design and massive capacity. The most significant variation was the expansion to a huge 115,000 spectators ahead of the 1982 World Cup but, apart from that, only relatively minor tweaks have been carried out in the last 55 years.

I vividly remember walking into the stadium at a very early age, holding my grandpa's hand while sporting an incredibly ticklish, hand-made Blaugrana scarf around my neck. The expectation around the impressive home of football was palpable; the incredible buzz captured the streets of central Barcelona many hours before kick-off.

I will never forget running up the hundreds of steps until we (finally) managed to reach the end of our journey around the crowded back-bone of the stadium and peeped towards the pitch for the first time: The colourful passion from the fans blew me away as a youngster and, far too many decades later, I still can't get enough of it.

Unfortunately, and as it happens with every long-term relationship, I began to see the cracks on my idealistic first impression as years went by. While the football soul of the stadium is as strong as ever (or even stronger, may I say, thanks to the piping-hot political situation in Catalunya and the success enjoyed by the club in recent seasons), the facilities and overall condition of the building itself is, regrettably, not as good as a club of Barcelona's calibre deserves.

Having been fortunate enough to visit Wembley and the London Olympic Stadium in recent years, it would be fair to say that comparisons are definitely painful and immediate action is essential in order to restore the Camp Nou to its former status as a beacon to be proud of.

With this in mind, former president Joan Laporta hired Norman Foster back in 2007 to remodel the stadium with the clear objective of making it a stand-out landmark of the Catalan capital. The British architect's final proposal was certainly modern and aesthetically pleasing but, similarly to many of the other decisions Laporta took, it was incredibly expensive - a shocking €250 million, to be precise.

With this in mind, it definitely wasn't a surprise that his former best friend Sandro Rosell dismissed the project as soon as he knocked Laporta out of the presidential seat in the summer of 2010. Reducing the over €400 million debt that Barcelona was struggling with was quickly, and correctly, identified as a much more relevant priority at the time.

After three controversial years in charge, however, Rosell has realised that a revamp of the Camp Nou can simply not be postponed any longer as some areas of the stadium (especially those further away from the Tribuna VIP sections, such as 3a Graderia) look more like an abandoned squatted flat in the dodgy suburbs than the home of one of the most celebrated clubs in football history.

Rosell addressed the matter recently: "Being very selfish, I wouldn't do anything about the new stadium because, if we did, then we wouldn't be able to use it for some time and it would cost some money. Being a bit selfish, I would remodel the current stadium as that would generate between 20-30 million euros of extra income per season. Being unselfish, I would want a whole new stadium."

Reading between the lines (as trying to understand what he actually said is virtually impossible, to be honest) it looks as if the president's preference would be to improve the current building within the next couple of years.

Personally, I would much rather have a completely new stadium built in a nearby area of the city centre (the current Mini-Estadi grounds would be ideal) with all the latest commodities. However, I do understand that thorough remodeling is the correct decision at this moment in time. My only hope is that whatever budget ends up being invested still allows the club to add the necessary players to a squad which clearly needs urgent reinforcements.

With austerity biting hard all across Europe, it is difficult to be certain about the viability of any of the ideas proposed by the current president. Having said that, faithful supporters who regularly invest a huge chunk of their hard-earned wages on their season tickets, deserve to have a reasonably comfortable home stadium to be proud of for many years to come.

Looking forward to my next visit to the Camp Nou -- I hope grandpa continues to watch his beloved Barca from up high.

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