Messi time at FC Barcelona not over, says club president


Joan Laporta made his comments during Barca’s preseason tour of the US

Lionel Messi’s ‘chapter’ at FC Barcelona is ‘not over’ according to president Joan Laporta, who admitted that the football icon’s exit from the club could have been handled better.

Messi famously left his boyhood club of over two decades last summer when the cash-strapped Catalans failed to offer him a new contract amid strict La Liga salary cap rules.

The Argentine now plies his trade at Paris Saint Germain where he signed a two-year contract that reports have suggested he will honor.

Yet while reflecting on the club legend’s departure and legacy at Camp Nou in an interview with ESPN, Laporta began by confessing that the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner was “everything” to the Blaugrana.

“To Barca, he’s been possibly its greatest player, the most efficient. To me he’s only comparable to Johan Cruyff. But it had to happen one day. We had to make a decision as a consequence of what we inherited. The institution is in charge of players, coaches,” Laporta explained, with reference to the previous rule of Josep Bartomeu in his role.

Laporta said that he would hope that the Messi chapter at Barca “isn’t over”.

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© Ethan Miller/Getty Images
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“I think it’s our responsibility to try to … find a moment to fix that chapter, which is still open and hasn’t closed, so it turns out like it should have, and that it has a more beautiful ending,” he suggested.

“As president of Barca, I did what I had to do,” Laporta said as per cutting ties with Messi.

“But also as president of Barca, and on a personal level, I think I owe him.”

Laporta also spoke on Barca’s financial predicament as a part of the chat.

Though the club has been reported as wallowing in debts as high as $1.5 billion, the sale of 25% of their television rights to American investment firm Sixth Street for the next 25 years has allowed them to bring in players such as Leeds United forward Raphinha and Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

“At the moment, we have a positive net worth. In about a month, we have earned close to €650 million ($664 million),” Laporta claimed.

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Lionel Messi scoring his team's fourth goal during the international friendly match between Argentina and Estonia. © Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

“We’ve had to move fast. The TV rights were sold, 25% of them, and that has added important revenue. The club is on path to being sound; financially the club is better with the money that’s come in, and we’ve been able to pay back €100 million of the credit we had through Goldman Sachs.

“What’s more, it needs to be said, the club is back to being sound economically, but we have to work harder to increase our earnings, not from selling shares but not by profiting through them.”

On the potential European Super League, which Barca, bitter rivals Real Madrid and Juventus still back despite English clubs withdrawing, Laporta stressed that Barca “have a calm approach about it” for now in “not wanting to upset anyone, encouraging dialogue with institutions in Europe, be they political or sport, and [making] it the most attractive competition in the world”.

“It’s got to be an open one, and we at Barcelona have said that. We’re also going to respect the state bodies in Europe, UEFA in this case.

“We’re open to discussion, but what it is going to be is a competition where the clubs will be able to exercise their power to make their own decisions,” Laporta insisted.

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Barcelona fans spoke of their disappointment that Messi was leaving. © RT Sport / Reuters

“At the end of it, we are the ones that are supporting the weight of what is European football. That’s where it can be the most attractive competition in the world if we do it right, and I’m sure we’re going to do it right because the law protects us.”

Lastly, though, Laporta took a parting dig at the likes of PSG and Manchester City, backed by Qatar and Abu Dhabi respectively.

“Additionally, the clubs have reached a point where we have to come up with rules that allow us to compete with state-owned clubs whose resources don’t come from football but through other industries, so they distort European football and make all this unsustainable,” he said.

“Clubs with the pedigree and history like Juve and Barca see a threat from these clubs that throw money at the problem and distort the market.”

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