Barca let Messi go to save the club, says president

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BARCELONA: Money came between Barcelona and Lionel Messi.

Barca said the player wanted to remain. The club wanted an equivalent.

They even shook hands on a deal.

But within the end, the club’s dire financial situation made it impossible.

Letting Messi go was the sole way of saving the club, and a bit like that Messi’s era at Barca came to an end.

President Joan Laporta said on Friday that keeping the Argentina star “would be risky and not even the best player within the world was worth jeopardizing the club’s future”.

“We think Barcelona is in particular,” Laporta said. “The club is over 100 years old and is above everyone, even above the simplest player within the world. The club goes over players, coaches, presidents.”

Laporta spoke each day after the club announced the negotiations with Messi had ended.

Laporta blamed Barca’s previous administration for the club’s dire financial situation, which kept it from fitting Messi’s new contract within La Liga’s fair play regulations.

He said he hoped the league would are more flexible with its rules but understood that it couldn’t make an exception albeit that meant losing Messi.

“There are objective reasons regarding the economical situation at the club and an investment of that volume with the contract of Messi was risky,” Laporta said. “We wanted to assume those risks, but once we realized the important situation of the club after the audit, it meant that we might have put the club in great risk.”

Laporta said Barca was not negotiating with Messi and therefore the six-time Ballon d’Or winner was considering other offers.

“Yesterday we realized it had been over. I had the last conversation with Leo’s father,” said Laporta. “I don’t want to offer false hope. The player has other offers and there’s deadline because La Liga starts soon and he needs time to assess his other options.”

He said Messi and therefore the club did everything to form the contract work but it wasn’t possible without hurting Barca’s finances.

“There comes a flash once you got to say enough. you would like to analyze rigorously with a chilly head and appearance at the numbers,” Laporta said. “And in La Liga we’ve to abide by the principleswe expect they might be more flexible, but that’s not an excuse, we knew the regulation. We couldn’t abide by it due to the inheritance we had.”

Laporta said Barca’s losses doubled from about 200 million euros ($235 million) to 400 million euros ($475 million). The club’s debt recently was at quite 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion), which wasn’t only due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“There is not any margin after a calamitous situation that was all right down to the previous board of administration,” he said.

Former president Josep Bartomeu resigned last year along side his board of directors amid his fallout with Messi and therefore the club’s financial struggles.

La Liga has prided itself in having a number of stricter economic controls for clubs in Europe, keeping them from overspending and going into heavy debt. With these controls, it had been ready to create a way stable and stronger league within the previous couple of years.

Barca’s salary cap, which is roughly proportional to 70% of a club’s revenue, was expected to be slashed even further this season. Laporta said for each 25 million the club spends on a player, it’s to form up 100 million in cap space, which isn’t a simple process. He said the club was already at its limit without the Messi contract.

Laporta said new funding recently secured by the league worth 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion) would have helped but the club was against the deal because it might have hurt the team broadcasting rights revenues for the subsequent 50 years.

“We aren’t getting to increase our salary limit by selling our audiovisual rights for subsequent 50 years,” Laporta said. “This decision would are risky.”

Messi is leaving after leading Barca into their most glorious years. He helped the club win 35 titles, including the Champions League fourfold, the La Liga 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times, and therefore the Spanish Super Cup eight times.

Messi tried to go away Barca for free of charge last year but was forced to remain after the club told him an exit clause in his contract had expired. He put aside his disappointment under coach Ronald Koeman, finishing last season as La Liga’s top scorer and scoring 38 goals in 47 games altogether competitions.

His form, and Laporta’s re-election as president, changed the dynamic and therefore the expectation was Messi would sign a replacement deal this summer. But Messi’s contract expired and because the new La Liga season approached, doubts grew, culminating in Barca releasing a press release on Thursday confirming Messi’s departure.

“Leo wanted to remain , so he’s not happy,” Laporta said. “We all wanted him to remain except for him immediately it’s a situation during which he has got to confront reality. It’s a reality that can’t be changed. I wish him the simplest wherever he goes.”

Laporta told Barca’s club captains — Gerard Pique, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Sergi Roberto — on Thursday, before informing the remainder of the squad face to face on Friday morning.

“The squad features a strange feeling, a particular sadness,” said Laporta. “I have told the players that a replacement stage in Barca’s history is beginning which we’ve to continue winning without Messi. there’s maximum commitment and professionalism.”

Messi was yet to form any public statements, and there was no immediate news on his future. Paris St Germain are expected to steer the chase for Messi but Manchester City, who attempted to sign him last year, could also join the bidding.

PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino told reporters on Friday that Messi is an “option” that’s being evaluated by the club, without elaborating.

City coach Pep Guardiola said the Premier League champions had no plans to form a move for Messi.

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