"It was really nice seeing Messi go and vote," Joan Laporta said on Monday after securing his second stint as Barcelona president.
It is more proof that he loves Barca. I am convinced that he wants to stay. And yes, he has already congratulated me for winning.
With Lionel Messi’s future at the top of his in-tray, Laporta is a man on a mission. The courting began during the campaigning, and now that he is back in charge the 58-year-old knows a crucial three months lies ahead as he looks to persuade the six-time Ballon d’Or winner to stay.
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Whether Messi’s mind is made up or not, only he and his close circle will know, but so long as the uncertainty remains then so too will Laporta make his presence felt.
And so, to the French capital. Paris Saint-Germain are one of the few clubs capable of affording Messi this summer, and in one foul swoop on Wednesday night they could knock Barca out of the Champions League and put on a show that lures the 33-year-old a little closer to their grasp.
That, perhaps, is one of the reasons why Laporta is travelling to Paris too; to shadow Messi and ensure no pre-contract papers are slipped under doors or dressed up as something to autograph.
There’s also the small matter of seeing whether this Barca team can complete La Remontada II in what will be Laporta’s first match back in the big seat.
The odds are firmly stacked against another comeback. Turning around a 4-1 Champions League deficit against PSG for the second time in four years is a difficult task, made harder by the fact this time it’s away from home. No 96-odd thousand fans at the Nou Camp to help suck the ball in, rather an empty Parc des Princes against a side who took one step closer last year to finally landing Europe’s most coveted prize.
Four goals without reply is the aim for Barca, but a more realistic target would be to put in the type of performance that convinces Messi that it is worth staying at the club.
The 8-2 humiliation to Bayern Munich pushed him as close to the exit door as he has been since joining, and given that he eventually, reluctantly, stayed for the 2020-21 season, Wednesday night’s match at PSG now stands as the match which could define Messi’s future.
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To win in Paris but still get knocked out could still convince Messi this team are capable of going places under new leadership. To win in Paris and go through would do that even more so. But to lose and see that three-goal margin extend to four, five or six, and then the Argentine could be asking questions about whether this team can realistically challenge for the Champions League in the years before he retires.
Laporta knows this too, and while he will have a summer vision which entails Messi extending his contract and a handful of signings joining him to mark a new dawn, it is nights like Wednesday that are out of his control.
All Laporta can do is watch on from the stands and hope that this is not too damaging of a night that means Messi’s mind will be made up.
The outcome of this tie may be all-but decided, but there is still plenty to play for when Barca play PSG.
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