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MALTATODAY 26 June 2022

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13 NEWS maltatoday | SUNDAY • 26 JUNE 2022 Schroeder after retaining his links to Russian-owned Gaz- prom after Putin's invasion of the Ukraine. Muscat remains obsessed with legacy, a task made more urgent by his fall from grace. There is no surprise that Mus- cat desperately needs to re- invent his brand, in the same way that others did. Despite his fall from grace over the disastrous Iraq invasion, Tony Blair reinvented himself as an advisor of Central Asian des- pots; the Clintons remained in the limelight thanks to the ac- tivities of their money-raking foundation. Like Malta's own Beckhams, the Muscats retain a cherished celebrity status and the perks which come with it, with Michelle presiding over a BOV-backed charity founda- tion and Joseph possibly start- ing to work his way up in the lucrative world of international football. Reckless, ambitious and skilled Nobody can underestimate Muscat's ambitions. After all this is the same man who har- boured big ambitions of Eu- ropean statesmanship, having been touted for the post of EU Council President and per- sisting in lobbying for the post at a time when he was not just aware of the 17 Black connec- tion, but that police were clos- ing on the alleged mastermind of Caruana Galizia's murder. Just imagine had Fenech been arrested while Muscat was al- ready serving in the top EU post he craved for. This in it- self raises questions on how unscrupulous Muscat can be in pursuing his goals. Indeed, it must be hard for Muscat to swallow the bitter pill of assisting to the rise of Roberta Metsola, the MEP who rebuked him by refusing his handshake, to the prominent role of president of the Euro- pean Parliament. Now Muscat may have found an alternative avenue to fame, influence and power, and pos- sibly a golden opportunity to nurture future contacts on a global level. Muscat's interest in football is not some fad, and he boasts of contacts within the Italian football league where he supports his beloved Milan. With a world 'shocked' by the trial of ex-FIFA boss Sepp Blat- ter and heir apparent Michel Platini over bribery charges on Qatar's bid to host the World Cup, football remains a wel- coming salon for shady opera- tors like Bernard Tapie, Silvio Berlusconi and Roman Abram- ovich, more tolerant of dubious connections than the political world itself. The office of Dr Joseph Muscat Muscat's consultancy ser- vice, to him not simply a job, remains part of his personal brand as a one-time 'public institution' who changed the face of Malta. Now no longer accountable to anyone but himself, his "Office Of Joseph Muscat" website gets to rewrite the last of his political days by stating that he resigned his of- fice in 2020 "following ten con- secutive national, European and local elections wins with record majorities". Shifting into football keeps him in a familiar arena that of- fers the kick of adulation as well as the networking of Maltese football's big men, who want Muscat to unlock the doors to their sports commercialisation projects. If this means more money for the clubs, it could guarantee Muscat the dose of national acclaim he craves. For Muscat loves to be loved. And he may well have the qualities to deliver. Even critics have to recognise that Joseph Muscat has both the business acumen and skills as well as a charisma that can captivate any audience, from dull European social demo- crats to ravenous Maltese de- velopers. Continental socialists like Martin Schulz were capti- vated by Muscat's drive when he served as an MEP, and en- dorsed him in Labour's leader- ship race. Ever the ambitious gambler, S&D support never stopped Muscat along with his friend Matteo Renzi, from con- sidering breaking-up with the socialist group to form a new alliance with the neoliberal Emmanuel Macron. Playing Muscat's game Muscat might never be able to exorcise the cloud of suspi- cion hanging over him, but he can take pride in his track-re- cord of transformative change. His website refers to his instru- mental role in "strengthening civil liberties", the legalisation of same-sex marriage, a 9% increase in female participa- tion in the labour market and world-class legislation for the processing of medical cannabis products. Muscat did change Malta from a conservative backwater into a vibrant socially liberal and cosmopolitan hub, albe- it one which in some aspects serves like a playground for the global rich. Despite his stom- ach-churning accommodation of the fat cats pillaging the en- vironment while living the high life, the Muscat model changed the life of many a Maltese for the better, including a grow- ing number of "little rich men and women". It is this change in daily life and not just tribal ignorance or tolerance for cor- ruption, which explains why Muscat remains an idol for many. But by appointing him as their representative, football club presidents send a message that the cloud still hanging on his head is no impediment to his rise in the parallel world of soccer. Will Muscat's foot- ball ambitions definitely end any political plans, or could the goal of bathing himself in football glory enable him to wield more political influence at a later stage. The football club presidents seem happy to come out and play in Muscat's grand game, where the trophy is not just perks and contacts but popularity and redemption. Muscat remains obsessed Muscat remains obsessed with legacy, a task made with legacy, a task made more urgent by his fall from more urgent by his fall from grace. There is no surprise grace. There is no surprise that Muscat desperately needs that Muscat desperately needs to reinvent his brand, in the to reinvent his brand, in the same way that others did. same way that others did.

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