Barcelona say they will pursue €23 million the Spanish Supreme court has ruled the club is owed by ex-president Joan Laporta and seven former board members, while Laporta himself says the whole episode is a shameful personal attack orchestrated by current president Sandro Rosell.
The court decision stems from a move by Barcelona member (socio) Vicenc Pla to bring a case against Laporta and the other seven men, saying they should be personally responsible for guaranteeing a €23 million deficit dating from the 2002-03 season.
It is also the latest development in a wider 'civil war' at the Catalan club between factions led by its two most recent presidents, which has again bubbled over this week. After a Barcelona executive meeting on Tuesday, spokesperson Toni Freixa said that the previous board agreed to the guarantee and must now make good on that undertaking.
"It is a clear sentence and the decision is unquestionable," Freixa said. "It clarifies for once and for all the mandate of the previous board. We expect that we will receive the guarantee, because we live in a society which respects the law. The sentence orders the accused to guarantee the debt - not to pay it off. We are waiting for the club member who made the original charges to ask for the sentence to be carried out."
Under Spanish law, the court ruling is only enforced if the person bringing the case decides to do so. Pla, unknown until he launched his case in 2010, told Catalunya Radio he had yet to make up his mind on his next step.
"We have not yet decided," Pla said. "The sentence is in our favour, and in favour of the club. [But] if they knew they had an obligation to cover the guarantee, why do they not do it?"
Wednesday's AS reported that Laporta viewed the case as part of a dirty-tricks campaign against him by Rosell and the current board, and also that the debts came from Joan Gaspart, who held the club presidency between 2000 and 2003.
"They are the ones who have made the claims," Laporta said. "They are hiding behind Vicenc Pla and want to discredit our good management. It is shameful."
Rosell and Laporta were originally allies in the 'Blue Elephant' campaign to oust controversial former president Josep Lluis Nunez, whose 22-year reign came to an end in 2000. When Laporta became president in summer 2003, Rosell became a club vice-president, but he resigned in 2005 after a falling-out.
Former coach Pep Guardiola is seen as closer to Laporta, who first appointed him head coach in 2008.
Barca's board meeting on Tuesday also remembered the contribution to the club of former vice-president Nicolau Casaus on the 100th anniversary of his birth. Casaus worked closely with Nunez, whose reputation suffered from reported financial irregularities and regular public clashes with Barca legend Johan Cruyff. Nunez, rarely seen at the Camp Nou these days, was a surprise attendee at Tuesday's event.
El Pais commented on Wednesday it may not have been a coincidence that Laporta, Guardiola, current boss Tito Vilanova and sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta are all in New York this week.