Barca set for PR charm offensive
Barcelona have replaced their director of communications in an apparent attempt to improve the public perception of president Sandro Rosell.
The ousted Xavier Martin had been in the job since December 2011, but rumours about his future had circulated after TV cameras caught him and Rosell arguing loudly and publicly in the stands during Barca's Champions League game at Milan in October.
The new man is Albert Montagut, whose impressive CV includes spells with El Pais, El Periodico and El Mundo, as confirmed by a short club statement released on Tuesday.
"FC Barcelona have named Albert Montagut as the club's new director of communications in replacement of Xavier Martin," it said. "The club thanks Xavier Martin for his services."
The development suggests Rosell is attempting a new media strategy, as he and his board continue to face regular public criticism from different quarters -- on issues ranging from Barca's sponsorship dealings with Qatar, to their handling of Eric Abidal's contract situation, to the role changes in the medical department have played in Lionel Messi's continuing injury problems.
Mundo Deportivo, a Catalan sports paper generally supportive of Rosell's regime, reported on Wednesday that Martin may have been fired because of "problems in projecting a positive image of the club despite its good sporting and economic situation."
Many of these problems appear linked to the continuing feud between Rosell and former, and perhaps future, club president Joan Laporta. Even Blaugrana defender Gerard Pique has talked publicly of the damage being done by public rows between 'Rosellista' and 'Laportista' factions. Messi has also hit out at journalists and pundits who have 'invented strange reasons' for his fitness woes.
Meanwhile, Barca sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta has signed a new contract tying him to the club until 2016 when the current board's term ends.
The former Barca goalkeeper told the club's website that he was happy that he retained the confidence of Rosell and the other directors.
"I'm happy with the confidence shown in me, for the feeling of continuity, but I also know this is a challenge I have to face every day," he said. "The president is happy with the job I've done and I feel a lot of confidence from him and I'm aware of the excellent relationship we've had over these last three years. This is a really demanding job and just good marks aren't enough -- you have to get an excellent all the time."
Zubizarreta's work now includes contract extensions for players including Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Marc Bartra and Martin Montoya, as well as identifying and signing a replacement for Victor Valdes who will leave at the end of the current campaign.
"There is still a lot to be done," Zubi said. "We will work to make sure we have the best keepers for the 2014-15 season."