Why I moved to Barcelona: Pol Ballus on reporting one of sport’s biggest stories

During one of the Christmas meals over the last few weeks, I told some of my family that I was moving home to Spain from Manchester. The reasons, I said, were to get more hours of sunlight and to make my mom happier by eating lunch at home more often than I had in the past seven years.

It was an easy escape route when I was pelted with questions by relatives who believe the Super League could be the new doomsday TV show and only remembered that Lionel Messi was no longer at Camp Nou when they saw him on the news lifting the World Cup trophy.

It wouldn’t help to go into some of the other reasons, such as the opportunity to cover FC Barcelona as they go through one of the most difficult episodes in their history.

I didn’t dare tell them that the club was starting to lose its place at the forefront of elite football; about FC Barcelona potentially ending up in a “situation of economic ruin,” according to their president last week; about being forced to let their best player ever leave for free; or that they are piling up European collapses that threaten to turn the Champions League into a trauma.

This is, of course, the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the events that have defined the past few years at the Camp Nou. No one can really figure out what will happen next.

This is the main reason for my decision to leave Manchester.

Some might think that Joan Laporta is making headway in an impossible mission to pull the club out of one of the deepest financial crises the industry has seen. Others are convinced that Barcelona will continue to drown, suffocated by debt and failure.

The only certainty here is, above all, that there will be hundreds of great stories to tell.

Gerard Pique

Gerard Pique after playing his last game for Barcelona in November (Photo: Alex Caparros via Getty Images)

FC Barcelona is likely to be the biggest story in the industry in the coming months and years. For that reason The Athletic he wants to be there.

I’ve spent the last seven years of my life in Manchester, following every bit of the action surrounding both of the city’s greats. It was a dream job.

For me, a boy born in Catalonia and raised in a family full of FC Barcelona fans (yes, there are people in my family who also follow football), there have not been many more exciting challenges abroad than following Pep Guardiola’s journey to England games.

Let alone adding Jose Mourinho, Manchester United, Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool to the mix. In the last decade, there has been no competition better than the Premier League — the era that has shown us success in football has been defined by small differences.

Barcelona will now show us how survival in football is defined by even smaller differences in a club where every victory can boost confidence in unimaginable ways, just as every defeat can tear apart an entire project.

The list of questions that need to be answered about Barcelona is endless.

Is Xavi equipped with everything he needs to succeed at Camp Nou?

How can the club absorb a long-term debt of more than one billion euros?

What is the plan of the current management in relation to the fan-owned club?

How is the politics within the club to ensure that the club gets out of its plans?

Finally, Barcelona have a brilliant generation of young talent, but how capable are they of maintaining the standards and sustaining a club that is impatient and chasing titles?

Someone, of course, has to tell my relatives that Superliga is not a new TV show.

In the end, it wasn’t all sunshine and family lunches.

I hope we stay together in this, and I hope we all do The Athletic readers can enjoy the project ahead.

(Top photo: David Ramos via Getty Images)

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