Barcelona vice president feels betrayed by request to step down

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Barcelona vice president Emili Rousaud has said he feels betrayed by Josep Maria Bartomeu, who asked him to step down from his position at the club via a telephone call earlier this week.

Sources told ESPN on Wednesday that Bartomeu wants at least four members of his board to resign as huge fractures emerge behind the scenes at Camp Nou.

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The internal sparring started in February, when it was leaked that the club had a relationship with a third-party company, I3 Ventures, that had been discrediting players, potential presidents and club legends on social media.

Bartomeu denied any knowledge of the social media accounts, rescinded the contract with I3 and ordered an external investigation into what had happened.

Further leaks followed last month when the club were negotiating a wage cut with the players due to the coronavirus crisis. Reports in the local media suggested the players were reluctant to take a hit and help the club, angering the players.

As a result, Bartomeu has decided to re-model his board. A source explained he only wants people around him he can trust and this week he asked four people to resign: the vice presidents Rousaud and Enrique Tombas and directors Silvio Elias and Josep Pont.

"I feel betrayed because the reasons he gave me aren't real," Rousaud told Marca. "They don't carry any weight and there's no proof to what he says.

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"I know he didn't like the issue with the social media accounts, when bills were hidden to evade the club's internal controls. He was furious and demanded an external audit. I know that he didn't like that, but I have always been very loyal to the club.

"To be honest, I feel betrayed by Bartomeu. And what riles me the most is this is not the moment [during Spain's coronavirus-enforced lockdown]. Do it face-to-face, not hidden [behind a phone]."

As the club is owned by its members, Bartomeu does not have the power to fire people, but he can demote them or change their roles within the club's structure if they refuse to resign.

Rousaud was among the board members who, in February after the social media scandal, felt that the presidential elections should be brought forward to this summer. They are currently scheduled for 2021 when Bartomeu, who will have served two terms, will not be allowed to run.

Rousaud maintains that the elections should be advanced. He cites the looming financial problems that the coronavirus crisis will bring, a warring board of directors and the relationship between the board and the players as reasons why.

Barca captain Lionel Messi has twice called out the club's hierarchy this year: first when sporting director Eric Abidal suggested the players were behind former coach Ernesto Valverde's sacking and more recently when announcing the players had agreed a 70% wage cut. He said the squad was "surprised people inside the club want to put us under a magnifying glass or try to pressure us into something we always wanted to do."

"Difficult times are coming financially, not just for Barcelona but for all companies," Rousaud said, who ruled out running as the current board's candidate for president.

"And the board, as seen in this last year, is not the most suitable to take on these challenges. Especially a board in complete crisis with each other, with the players confronting them and with fans waving white hankies [at Bartomeu] every home game. The most sensible thing to do would be to bring the elections forward, but that's a personal opinion."