Joan Laporta has seemingly blamed former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu for Lionel Messi’s exit and the club’s ‘awful’ finances.
Barcelona have confirmed that Messi will not continue with the club next season after the Spanish side were unable to fulfil their contract agreement with the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, despite the forward agreeing to a 50% reduction in his wages.
A club statement admitted there was deep ‘regret’ from both parties at the conclusion of Messi’s career at the Camp Nou, with Barca citing ‘financial and structural obstacles’ for the departure of the club’s record goalscorer.
Barcelona president Laporta has now lifted the lid on the situation and Messi’s shock exit from the Catalan club, blaming the reign of predecessor Bartomeu for the ‘dreadful’ financial situation the current board have inherited.
“I’m here to explain the situation we’ve reached with Lionel Messi,” he told a press conference. “First of all, I would like to say the inheritance we’ve received is awful. It’s dreadful. We were already at 100 per cent. We don’t have any margin in terms of salary and the rules and regulations of the Spanish La Liga is regulated by FFP and we don’t have any margin.
“We knew that when we got to the club, but I have to say that when we got to the club the numbers that were presented to us, those numbers are a lot worse than those exposed initially and those we were working with.
“The losses are a lot more elevated than we had expected and what we’re spending is a lot more than what we expected. The current contracts means we have this salary mass of great magnitude and it allows us no margin. This is all tied to FFP, and as you know in La Liga this doesn’t follow the criteria of cash.
“That’s why we couldn’t fit in the first contract that we’d agreed to with 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 and that has meant that when I have to make the decision, I can’t make one that would affect the club for this length of time.”
Laporta admitted that the handing of a new contract to Messi, even at a reduced rate, would place the club in further financial jeopardy and insists the decision was made with Barcelona’s long-term future in mind.
The president believes that La Liga could be more ‘flexible’ with their rulings regarding financial fair play, but believes Messi’s exit is in the best interests of Barcelona given their current ‘calamitous’ financial situation.
“The club is over a 100 years old and it’s above everyone and everything,” he said. “Even above the best player in the world. The club comes before players and presidents. But the point I must stress is that there are objective reasons regarding the economical situation of the club. An investment of that volume with the contract of Messi was risky.
“We wanted to assume that risk, all of us on the board of directors but when we realised the real financial situation of the club after the audit, we realised it would put the club at great risk.
“Barcelona are in a calamitous situation that’s down to the previous board of administrators. Lionel wanted to stay at Barcelona and we wanted him to stay. The fact that he wanted to stay was the first step that was made, and it was a key factor. I want to thank everyone that’s been in the negotiations which we’ve had during these last few months.
“There were lots of aspects that needed to be negotiated as well. It needed to be compatible with fair play and it needed to be of a certain duration. He’s the best player in the world and had other offers of course. But there needs to come a moment when enough is said and you need to analyse it rigorously with a cold head and look at the numbers.
“In the Spanish La Liga, we have to abide by the rules. We think they could be more flexible but that’s not an excuse. Leo deserves everything. He’s proven that he loves Barca and has his roots here. If you allow me a personal thought, I’m sad but I’m convinced that we’ve done the best for the interests of the club.”
There have been some suspicions that Barcelona’s stance could be an attempt to get La Liga to loosen their restrictions to prevent the divisions most talented player from departing, and Laporta was asked about a potential U-turn, before outlining some of the details they had reached with Messi.
“I don’t want to generate false hope,” he said. “During the course of the negotiations, we’ve known that the player has had other offers. There was a time limit, both for us because LaLiga starts shortly and for his representatives because they need time. If Fair Play continues to be rigid, the player also needs some time to see what he’s going to do – to evaluate his situation and look at other options.
“We’ve been at it for two months and we’ve gone through different stages. The first agreement was a two-year contract to be paid in five years and Leo was in agreement with that. He was always present in the negotiations and he tried to make it easy for us.
“When we thought that it would be allowed within the regulations the criteria of cash came into play, which isn’t allowed here like it is in other countries. La Liga had its pressures because other clubs want rules to be abided by. Then we agreed to a five-year contract that was accepted by Leo even though we were all thinking of two more years.
“We were all thinking of two years and then if he wanted more, we would sit and negotiate. We wanted the post-Messi era to start in two years but the circumstances have meant we’ve had to bring that forward. We thought the five-year contract would be allowed by the FFP regulations, but after a technical analysis by the La Liga commission, we found out that this contract wouldn’t be valid within those regulations.
“The only way was to accept La Liga’s operation that’s not in Barca’s best interest. We were going to receive some money but we believe that accepting that money but affecting our television rights for the future is something we can’t accept.”
The 59-year-old also offered an indication of just how dire the club’s finances are as they attempt to cut costs through wage reductions.
“The ratio that we have on the salary limit is four to one. So to bring in 25m euros in salary we had to release 100m euros. That’s a lot of players on a lot of reduction. We’re worked intensely in terms of trying to liberate some of that salary mass with some players… we’ve reached agreements and with others it’s not an easy process.
“It’s not easy. Maybe we’ll have to make other decisions but they’re not a guarantee of being the right solution. It’s an uneasy and risky situation for the club and it all requires time. What is true is that with what we were counting on for Leo, the salary mass would’ve been 110 per cent compared to the income of the club and that’s not sustainable. That’s why we will continue to work along these lines. The salary mass has us tied right now.
“There were decisions made in the past which restrict us right now. People ask why could we sign Aguero and Depay – but these are players who’ve come to the club accepting certain conditions in terms of salary and we have to thank them for that.”