Josep Lluís Núñez (1978-2000)

On May 6, 1978, Josep Lluís Núñez (Barakaldo, 1931-Barcelona 2018) won the presidential elections by a narrow margin

Candidates Ferran Ariño and Nicolau Casaus with 9,527 and 6,202 votes, respectively, came short of the 10,352 votes that made Josep Lluís Núñez the 38th president in the history of FC Barcelona. He came into office on July 1, 1978. 

Unlike most of the presidents before him, Nuñez had never been on the Club’s board of directors, but this well-known entrepreneur from the real estate sector had won on the back of a campaign using the slogan For a triumphant Barça, and he would go on to become the longest-serving president in the history of FC Barcelona.

Josep Lluís Núñez’s first major task was to sort out the club’s financial problems. But he also had a bigger goal than that, none other than to make FC Barcelona the biggest football institution in the world. During his 22 years as president, Barça would expand spectacularly. The Camp Nou was remodeled along with its surroundings, and the Club built a residency for youth players at La Masia (1979), the Miniestadi (1982), and the Museum (1984).

With Núñez in command, the football team won a great number of titles both at home and abroad. And the three other professional sports teams in existence at the time (basketball, handball and roller hockey) became more well established and were among the leading teams in Europe.

One year after Nuñez took up the reigns, Barça won the European Cup Winners Cup in Basel, the first major title of his presidency. That final will always be remembered for the 30,000 fans that journeyed to the Swiss city to support the team. In 1982, with Udo Lattek as coach, Barça won another Cup Winners Cup, beating Standard Liege in the final at the Camp Nou, which had just been expanded, as it was to be one of the main stadiums used at the forthcoming World Cup. Fútbol Club Barcelona topped 100,000 members for the first time and so much money was coming into the club that Nuñez was able to sign a man who was considered the best player in the world at the time, Diego Armando Maradona.

The club kept on growing and, in 1984-85, Núñez was able to celebrate his second league title as president. Harder times were around the corner though, with defeat in the 1986 European Cup Final in Seville, a major disappointment that was the catalyst for the first crisis of the Nuñez years, known as the ‘Hesperia Mutiny’ (1988), a rebellion by the first team players over money-related issues, which ended with almost the entire squad being dismissed.

This led to a whole new period in Josep Lluís Núñez’s presidency. The board signed Johan Cruyff, and the Dutch coach built up what would go on to be dubbed the Dream Team, delighting the whole of Europe with their spectacular play and finally winning Barça’s first ever European Cup at Wembley in May 1992, along with an unprecedented four consecutive league championships and several other titles besides. This was undoubtedly his finest period in terms of sporting success, and he was re-elected to the presidency for the third time when he beat Sixte Cambra by 25,441 votes to 17,609 in 1989.

After eight years, the relationship between coach and president had become strained and, in 1996, Nuñez decided to put an end to the Cruyff era, bringing in Bobby Robson. The year the veteran Englishman coached Barça will always be remembered for the presence at the club of the brilliant Brazilian Ronaldo, whose amazing performances that season thrilled the crowds en route to the European Cup Winners Cup, the Spanish Cup and the Spanish Super Cup. That same 1997, Núñez was re-elected for the final time after winning 76 per cent of the votes ahead of 16 per cent for his rival, Àngel Fernández. A few months later, in March 1998, the president had to overcome a motion of no confidence presented by the opposition group called El Elefant Blau.

Meanwhile, the Dutch manager Louis van Gaal was putting together a team that would win two Leagues and one Cup in his first two seasons, from 1997 to 1999. But his trophy-less third season and his inability to understand the fans brought Van Gaal’s first period as Barça coach to an untimely end. Despite the success of club’s centenary celebration in 1999, the Club’s members were getting restless, eventually leading Núñez to resign from the position and call early elections in July 2000, thus leaving after 22 years in charge of the club.

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