Joan Laporta: Lionel Messi wanted to stay at Barcelona, but the reality cannot be changed
After the shock announcement from Barcelona that their captain and talisman Lionel Messi would be leaving this summer as his contract had expired, president Joan Laporta gave a press conference on Friday morning to explain why the decision had been taken, praising the player but blaming past administrations and La Liga.
President of FC Barcelona Joan Laporta attends a press conference after the announcement that Lionel Messi will be leaving the club at Camp Nou on August 06, 2021 in Barcelona
Barcelona president Joan Laporta says not signing Lionel Messi to a new deal was the right thing to do for the club - admitting that he was powerless to retain Messi even though the player wanted to extend his stay.
However the club’s new figurehead refused to take the personal blame for the failure to get Messi to say - something he has prioritised in his campaign to return to lead the Catalan club. He variously blamed the Liga’s financial rules, and previous Barca administrations for failing to manage the club’s finances more soundly.
Speaking at a Friday press conference after Thursday’s shock announcement, he began by explaining that the dire financial situation of the club became worse the more club officials looked.
“I am here to explain the situation about Messi… I need to say first, sadly we have such a bad financial past that means the wages are 110pc of the income. That means we have no flexibility… [The] situation is worse than we were told and what we had calculated based on official data,” he said.
He then claimed that La Liga’s new deal with CVC, a private equity firm, led to regulations that made a deal with Messi unworkable. As a new player, technically if not in terms of sensibility, there were new rules to register Messi along with the club’s other summer signings.
“The debt is bigger than expected. That is linked to FFP of course. The new contract with Messi could not be approved… On that, we don’t agree with the deal La Liga has reached because it mortgages us for half a century. The club is above players, coaches, directors,” he said.
Image credit: Getty Images
“[The] reasons why we have decided to stop negotiations are objective reasons: financial situation of the club. The investment to keep him had plenty of risks. We wanted to take them but when we have known the reality of the club after the audit, we have to decided not to do so.
“The only possible way to go further with Messi had to do with that deal La Liga has agreed but we disagree with. But we feel that is not right, the mortgaging of the club for half a century.”
Laporta shifted the blame onto the Spanish league, led by Javier Tebas, for their failure to accommodate Messi’s financial requirements.
“You have to leave feelings away, you have to look at numbers with a cold head. We wanted La Liga to be more flexible but this is no excuse, we knew the rules and what we have been left with from the previous board makes it all impossible.”
With it still possible for Messi to remain at the club, and given his huge popularity with the club’s fans, Laporta refused to blame the Argentine, who had wanted to quit the club last summer and reportedly came close to joining Manchester City and his former Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola.
“I am sad but I also think that we have done the best for Barcelona,” he said.
“Barcelona is above anyone, including the best player in the world. We will always be thankful to him.”
Laporta also had little confidence the situation would change in the club’s favour.
“I don’t want to create false expectations. The player has got other offers,” he observed.
Image credit: Getty Images
“We had a limit of time for us and also for him. If the FPP does not change, and it looks like it will not, then the player needed to look after his future.
“We had a first agreement of two years, to pay in five years. Messi has opened the door to all kinds of help to make it happen. We thought we could do it, but FPP stopped it. Then, we had a deal of five years, agreed by Leo, even though we thought of two years with us.
“Two years made sense for him too as he has other plans after that. Again we thought FFP would accept it, but a technical analysis of La Liga told us that the deal would not work either.
“The situation of the wages is unsustainable and we keep working to reduce it. That comes on the back of years of mismanagement. The new players have accepted wages that can be fitted in.”
'Barca need to bring wage bill down for Messi to stay' Tebas
Given the shambolic apparent end to Messi at Barcelona, it is perhaps little surprise that Laporta described Messi as upset, and was in almost apologetic mood.
“Leo is not happy,” he admitted.
“He wanted to stay, we all did. But he has had to face up, like we have, to a reality which cannot be changed. I wish the best to him and his family, wherever they go, Barca will always be his home.”