FC Barcelona has been dealt with another blow after Catalan police arrested four individuals connected to the club after club facilities were searched on Monday.

The arrests were made in connection with an ongoing investigation on the club's financial issues. The infamous scandal has now been dubbed "Barçagate," and also involves a smear campaign that was allegedly staged by the club after hiring a social media firm to attack their players online back in 2020.

Players accused the club of the scheme which led to a massive falling out with club management. The chain of events that followed included captain Lionel Messi's attempt to leave the club last summer. Later in October, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and his entire board were forced to resign.

Local media has been reporting that Bartomeu is among those who were arrested on Monday, but neither the police nor the club has confirmed this.

The news comes less than a week before Barcelona club members take a vote to elect Bartomeu's replacement. The elections have been moved to March 7 after initially being scheduled in January.

Barcelona released a statement confirming that the police operation is related to the social media smear campaign. They said that the search conducted at the Camp Nou is "related to the contacting of monitoring services on social networks."

The club has agreed to cooperate with the investigation, as confirmed by the statement which read, "FC Barcelona have offered up their full collaboration to the legal and police authorities to help make clear facts which are subject to investigation. The information and documentation requested by the judicial police force relate strictly to the facts relative to this case.

The investigation has been in progress for almost a year, and four other properties aside from the offices at Camp Nou have been searched.

The scandal has shaken the club to the core, but the upcoming elections would be one way for the club members to help make things right. Whoever wins will have the monumental task of rebuilding the club both on and off the pitch.

Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu
Former FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu Photo: AFP / Josep LAGO