BarçaGate Latest: ‘Tense’ Meeting With Key Players, Pique Calls Journalist a ‘Puppet’

You know it’s a scandal when it’s got a ‘gate’ suffix.

BarçaGate, as it has unoriginally been dubbed, is the mess that club president Josep Maria Bartomeu finds himself in after it was (rather sensationally) alleged on Monday that Barcelona had paid company I3 Ventures close to €1m for social media services which included spreading posts and memes online disparaging their own stars and club legends (including Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Pep Guardiola)?

Yep, really.

Both ?Barcelona and I3 Ventures hastily released statements to deny the allegations which came from SER Catalunya. However, SER have since doubled down on their reporting and the scandal rages on.

Here’s the latest that you need to know about BarçaGate…


SER Publishes New ‘Evidence’

FBL-ESP-LIGA-BARCELONA

Speaking publicly on Tuesday afternoon, Bartomeu insisted (via ?Forbes): “So that no-one is left in any doubt, Barça has not contracted any services to disparage neither players, nor politicians nor former presidents. It is completely false. 

“We will defend ourselves wherever necessary via all means at our disposal against anyone who accuses of such practices.”?

While the beleaguered president continues to fight off the allegations that I3 Ventures was hired to do anything other than digital monitoring services, ?SER have since published a 3?6-page dossier as ‘evidence’ of the company’s link to six social media accounts which created posts to attack the reputations of Barcelona’s stars and potential presidential candidates.

MARCA, meanwhile, quote an anonymous I3 Ventures employee as saying that “€1m [the fee quoted by SER in their original reporting] for monitoring work is way out of the market.”


Bartomeu Meets With Club Leaders

Sergi Roberto,Sergio Busquets,Lionel Messi,Gerard Pique,Frenkie De Jong

As well as ordering an internal investigation on Tuesday, Bartomeu met with Barcelona’s four club ‘captains’: Messi, Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto, as well as manager Quique Setien.

According to ?Mundo Deportivo, it was a ‘cordial’ affair as Bartomeu assured the players he was not behind the negative posts, while continuing to deny that Barcelona contracted I3 Ventures with the purpose of creating such content.

?ESPN, however, describe the same 35-minute meeting as ‘tense’, with the players ‘uneasy’ about the situation, despite appreciating Bartomeu’s explanation.

It is said that, while elections aren’t scheduled until 2021, the players now hold the key to the president’s future, which hangs precariously in the balance.

Meanwhile, ?LA Galaxy have reportedly offered Messi an unlikely, if timely, escape route out of Barcelona, as the scandal adds to growing concerns over his future at the club


Pique Calls Journalist a ‘Puppet’

And finally, Pique – hours after the tense-cordial meeting – called out a Bartomeu-sympathetic journalist as a ‘puppet’ on Twitter.

Marcal Llorente, a journalist for Mundo Deportivo, wrote: “I’ve known Barcelona’s environment and the idiosyncrasies of the members/supporters for many years, and fortunately they are less and less manipulatable and more intelligent.

“They know perfectly who Barcelona want to use for their media, political and economic interests.”

Shortly after midnight, Pique responded with a one-word reply: ‘puppet’.

It is the second example of a high-profile Barça star wading into a war of words online following Messi’s Instagram response to sporting director Eric Abidal earlier this month.


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