What Does Catalan Independence Mean For Barcelona FC?

The ongoing Catalan independence movement has divided the Spanish people, but will it literally divide Spain?

The recent referendum, which the Spanish courts deemed unconstitutional, favored independence by 90% (though turnout was just 42%). The Spanish government did everything it could to prevent the vote, sending police to seize ballots and block voting booths. Despite those attempts, the referendum went ahead.

We’ll have to wait and see how the Spanish government and the international community respond to the vote. But one thing is for sure: these are trying times for both Spain and Catalonia.

At the center of it all is Barcelona FC, which is inextricably tied to Catalan identity and has long represented the pride of the Catalonian people, especially when facing Real Madrid. What would an independent Catalonia mean for them and for La Liga?

Let’s take a look at the odds.

Photo credit: Jeroen Bennink (Flickr) CC License

Catalan Soccer: Odds on the Future

Odds Barcelona will leave La Liga by 2020: 19/1

If Catalonia gains independence, then this will become a real possibility. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is open to the idea and there isn’t a league in Europe that would turn down the opportunity to take on the Catalan giants.

Logistically, competing in the Premier League, Bundesliga, or Serie A would be problematic. Playing in Ligue 1, however, would be just as convenient as La Liga, which is why talk of Barcelona moving to the French league has been around for years.

It would be sad to see El Clasico come to an end, of course. A rivalry between PSG and Barca just wouldn’t be the same.

Odds Catalonia qualifies for a World Cup by 2026: 35/1

As it stands, the Catalonian national team is not recognized by FIFA or UEFA. But if the region is granted independence, then the governing bodies will likely recognize Catalonia and the national team would be eligible for international tournaments like the World Cup and Euro.

That means qualifying for said tournaments is a two-fold issue: first, will Catalonia actually gain independence and, in turn, recognition from the governing bodies? Second, will enough of the best Catalan-born players choose to play for Catalonia over Spain? Neither are anything close to a guarantee, hence the long odds to see Catalonia in the World Cup by 2026. 

Odds Catalonia wins a World Cup by 2026: 129/1

If Catalonia qualifies for the World Cup, there’s a good chance they’ll be among the favorites to win. Just look at some of the Catalan-born players playing in the top leagues — Xavi Hernández, Sergi Roberto, Gerard Piqué, Marc Bartra, Cesc Fàbregas, Gerard Deulofeu. The list goes on! With a population of just 7.5 million, Catalonia is able to produce a crazy amount of world-class talent. But even if they’re the top dogs heading into 2022 and 2026 (which they wouldn’t be), they’d still be looking at 5/1 odds to win it all. When you factor in the strong probability that they won’t be at the tournaments due to international (un)recognition, the odds start getting very long indeed. 

Odds to boycott the 2018 World Cup

Any Catalonian player: 9/1

Gerard Piqué: 15/1

Sergio Busquets: 25/1

Jordi Alba: 30/1

Cesc Fàbregas: 50/1

Gerard Deulofeu: 150/1

Gerard Piqué was an outspoken proponent of the independence vote (but never explicitly took a position) and has always been a controversial figure in Spain. Despite his massive contributions to the national team, he’s still jeered by non-Catalan Spanish fans. If anyone is going to boycott, it’ll probably be him.

Barca captain Sergio Busquets and the polarizing Jordi Alba could also take a stand if the situation intensifies. Barcelona FC have always been an icon for Catalan independence, so we can be sure that they’ll face some backlash from Spanish unionists.

A boycott will probably come from a big-name player. The lesser established players can’t afford to take that kind of hit to their careers.