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Hola Madrid! Barcelona presidential candidate Laporta hangs huge banner next to Real’s Bernabeu stadium

With all the noise around Barcelona regarding the future of Lionel Messi and the underwhelming tenure of coach Ronald Koeman, how do you get attention for your presidential campaign?

On Tuesday, Joan Laporta found out that planting a 1,000 square metre (10,764 square foot) banner on Real Madrid’s doorstep should do the trick.

The giant image of Laporta hung on scaffolding down the side of an apartment block on Paseo de la Habana, just 100 metres (109 yards) from the Santiago Bernabeu, also bears a message to Real Madrid fans: “Looking forward to seeing you again.”

It is barely 100 metres away from the Bernabeu, so close that cranes busy at work on the stadium’s redevelopment could be clearly seen in the background of almost every photo.

In an extra bit of cheekiness, Laporta tweeted images of the banner with the hashtag “#HolaMadrid,” a play on the motto “Hala Madrid.”

The move helped former Barca president Laporta, 58, grab some attention in the race to be voted in as Barca’s new president on Jan. 24.

“It was my idea. It seemed like a nice message for [Barca fans] in Madrid and all of Spain,” campaign boss Lluis Carrasco told El Partidazo de COPE.

Laporta’s first spell as club president, from 2003-10, saw the club return to winning ways with back-to-back league titles, a Champions League in 2006, and the beginning of the Pep Guardiola era with Barca’s famous Treble in 2009.

Rival candidate Victor Font was forced to admit in a response on social media that when it comes to PR, Laporta is “the f—-ing boss” [echoing the phrase Guardiola once used to describe Jose Mourinho’s mastery of the media] but added: “With banners we won’t win the Champions League, or build a new stadium, or fix the club’s serious debt problem.”

There were some, unconfirmed, reports in Spain that Real Madrid president Florentino Perez had contacted old sparring partner Laporta to express his amusement at the stunt. Even Real Madrid superfan Tomas Roncero said he “loved” it.

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“I’d congratulate Laporta. It’s what I’ve always thought… Real Madrid is the most important thing in a cule’s [Barca fan’s] existence,” he told Cadena SER.

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Laporta’s stunt is hardly the first example of gentle inter-club trolling in the name of publicity. Here’s a few more examples of the artform — some more successfully executed than others.

Tevez billboard wars

When Carlos Tevez defected from Manchester United to Manchester City in 2009, a group of City fans decided to rub it in by paying for a billboard to go on display in Piccadilly Gardens, welcoming the Argentina striker to the blue half of the city. This little stunt soon blew up in their faces when Tevez began causing friction and publicly falling out with everybody in authority at City, including manager Roberto Mancini. Soon afterward, an update version of the “Welcome to Manchester” poster appeared in the city centre which read “Welcome to Carlos,” paid for by the United supporter’s trust, who described it as a “warm-hearted message from some old friends” on their website.

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The billboard war didn’t last too long, but several pastiches have been spawned since — including a “Welcome to Zlatan” poster unfurled opposite City’s club shop upon the arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic at United in 2016 and a “Welcome to Vanchester” message unveiled when Louis van Gaal took over as manager at Old Trafford two years previously.

Spurs stadium boast backfires

As Tottenham Hotspur were preparing to move into their new stadium in the summer of 2018, they made the mistake of trolling their local rivals with a cheeky advert that appeared in Tube stations across the capital. With Arsenal and Chelsea both missing out on the top four, Spurs bragged that their new 62,000-seater arena would be the “only place to watch Champions League in London.”

Unfortunately for Spurs, work on the new ground took a lot longer than expected, meaning they had to start the season playing their home games at Wembley instead. Their first Champions League game under the bright lights at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium was not until April 2019, when they beat Manchester City in the first leg of their quarterfinal.

Ajax’s trophy tiff with Manchester United

Before going head to head in the 2017 Europa League final, Ajax unwisely decided to lay down the gauntlet to Manchester United by teasing the English side over having never won the competition before. However, it was quickly noted that while Ajax had indeed won the UEFA Cup in 1995, United had collected two Champions League trophies in the intervening years — one more than their Dutch opponents. In fairness, United showed commendable restraint while making that precise point in their response.

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