Barcelona keeping Lionel Messi would have put the club at great risk according to Joan Laporta, who criticised both the previous regime and also LaLiga in a powerful media conference.
The Spanish club sensationally announced on Thursday that Messi would not be continuing at Camp Nou, despite agreeing terms on a new contract.
A short statement revealed how “financial and structural obstacles” made a deal impossible, despite an injection of funds stemming from the league signing an investment and revenue-sharing deal with CVC Capital Partners, who will hold a 10 per cent stake.
Barca joined rivals Real Madrid in denouncing the plan, with Laporta unwilling to mortgage the long-term future of the club by accepting the restructure, even if that meant ruling out retaining Messi.
The club’s president also discussed how the Josep Maria Bartomeu regime had created serious financial problems, even greater than he initially thought following a thorough audit.
From boy to goat. pic.twitter.com/G0JPpPi5WC
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2021
“We don’t have any margin. We knew that when we got to the club, but the numbers that were presented to us after the first audit, and our analysis, those numbers are a lot worse than those exposed initially, which are what we are working with now,” Laporta said in his opening statement to the media on Friday.
“That means that the losses are a lot more elevated than expected, we are spending a lot more than we expected and the current contracts mean that we have this salary of great magnitude, allowing us no margin.
“This is all tied to fair play, the financial fair play in LaLiga meant we couldn’t fit in the first contract we had agreed to with Lionel Messi.
“In order to have that fair play, Barca had to agree to an operation that would affect the club for the next 50 years, in terms of television rights [the CVC deal].
“That has meant that as I’ve had to make a decision, I can’t make one to affect the club for the next 50 years, the club is over 100 years old, it’s above everyone, everything – even the best player in the world, the best player who has been with us for years, and we will always thank him for what he’s done for us.”
Laporta made clear that Messi had wanted to remain with Barcelona, with reports suggesting the Argentina superstar was willing to take a 50 per cent pay cut.
However, LaLiga president Javier Tebas made clear in recent weeks that the governing body would not relax financial rules just to keep the competition’s biggest name.
“The reasons why we have decided to get to this point of negotiations is that there are objective reasons regarding the economical situation of the club,” Laporta continued.
“An investment of that volume with the contract of Messi was risky. We wanted to assume those risks, but when we have realised the real situation at the club after the audit, it means that we would have put the club at great risk.
“The salary margin has a great deal to do with that, after a calamitous situation that was down to the previous board of administrators. If we terminate the current contacts, that also has risks, the only way to have that salary margin right now, was to accept that operation. We can go into details, but it’s an operation that puts at risk the club for the next 50 years.
“We understand we can’t do that. Leo wanted to stay at Barca, we wanted him to stay, the fact he wanted to stay was the first step that was made. That was a key factor – he wanted to stay.”
672 – Lionel Messi is the player to have scored the most goal for a single club in all competitions in the Top 5 European Leagues ever (672 goals for @FCBarcelona). Bye#Barcelona #Barca #LionelMessi pic.twitter.com/6yqTaDFnKD
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 5, 2021
Messi’s future is unclear as the major European leagues all prepare for the start of a new season. A move to Manchester City was strongly rumoured a year ago when the 34-year-old pushed to leave, though it is unclear if the Premier League champions retain any interest in a deal at this time.
Paris Saint-Germain are the early favourites, with Laporta making clear negotiations are over with Barca as he looks to do what is best for the club in their current circumstances.
“I want to thank everyone who has been in the negotiations during the past few months, with all the little intricacies, there were a lot of aspects to be negotiated as well,” Laporta said in closing.
“It needed to be compatible with fair play, be of a certain duration, and after all of this, there comes a moment when you need to say enough.
“You need to analyse it rigorously with a cold head and look at the numbers. In LaLiga, we have to abide by the rules, we feel they could be more flexible but that’s not an excuse. We knew we couldn’t abide by it due to the situation.
“Leo deserves everything – he has proven that he loves Barca, he has his roots here.
“I’m sad, but I’m convinced we’ve done the best for the club.”