Joan Laporta is back as Barcelona president, and we’re in for quite the ride if his last term was anything to go by.
The charismatic Barcelona-born lawyer last served as president for seven full seasons between 2003 and 2010, with the club winning four league titles and two Champions Leagues in that time.
We’ve looked at the first starting XI during his initial presidency, a 1-0 away win at Athletic Bilbao in 2003, and compared it to the team that celebrated winning the 2009-10 La Liga title with a 99-point haul after thrashing Real Valladolid 4-0.
Victor Valdes – Victor Valdes
Such was the goalkeeper’s longevity at his boyhood club, Valdes’ near 20 years from the youth set-up to the senior team saw six different presidents in charge of the club.
He also played under six different managers since his debut in August 2002, eventually leaving in the summer of 2014, as the Luis Enrique era began with two new faces competing for a spot between the sticks with Marc-Andre ter Stegen eventually winning out over Claudio Bravo.
Michael Reiziger – Dani Alves
Part of Louis can Gaal’s seminal Ajax side, Reiziger reunited with his Dutch compatriot at the Camp Nou in 1997.
He won back-to-back league titles in his first two years at the club, but a further five trophyless years would follow, as Barcelona kicked off the noughties with a fallow period.
Former Ajax team-mate Frank Rijkaard – who he started alongside in 1995 Champions League final, a famous 1-0 victory over Milan – used the right-back regularly during his first season in charge before he was allowed to leave for Steve McClaren’s Middlesbrough in the summer of 2004.
Juliano Belletti, Damia and Gianluca Zambrotta appeared at right-back in subsequent years before Alves came to define the position, arriving the same summer as Guardiola and winning 13 major honours in eight wildly successful years at the club.
The Brazilian’s signing in 2008 was a real triumph of the Laporta presidency.
Carles Puyol – Carles Puyol
El Tiburon (‘The Shark’) will always enjoy legend status at the only club he ever represented.
Since retiring in 2014, he remains a prominent voice on all matters Barcelona, and the former centre-half was seen casting his vote at the 2021 Barcelona presidential elections.
Puyol subsequently congratulated Laporta – under whom he enjoyed the most successful years of his 15-year career – on his return to office.
Phillip Cocu – Gerard Pique
Part of a sizeable Dutch contingent at the turn of the century, Cocu departed alongside Reiziger, Patrick Kluivert and Marc Overmars in the summer of 2004, while Edgar Davids returned to Italy after a successful half-season loan.
Barcelona didn’t earn a penny for any of them leaving, but they helped make space for the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Deco, Sylvinho and Ludovic Giuly to arrive.
Cocu frequently captained the side during his year serving under Rijkaard, and while he predominantly served as a midfielder, his versatility saw him slot in at centre-back for the win at Sam Mames. He scored the match-winner on that occasion, getting on the end of a Ronaldinho cross.
A 16-year-old Gerard Pique was still turning out in the youth ranks at that point before he went on to spend a four-year stint at Manchester United. Laporta and Guardiola brought him back for a reported £5million fee in the summer of 2008 – and the rest is history.
Giovanni van Bronckhorst – Eric Abidal
Van Bronckhorst made his La Liga debut in the win in Bilbao, having originally joined on loan from Arsenal, which was the start of his adaptation period from midfielder to left-back.
A permanent move was sealed a year later, and two league titles and the Champions League swiftly followed.
Abidal was signed from Lyon as his replacement in the summer of 2007, and the Frenchman would go on to become a stalwart of the Guardiola era. Continue reading