Joan Laporta, the president during some of Barcelona’s greatest successes between 2003 and 2010, has claimed that his proposed new premiership would move on without Lionel Messi and faces a critical fight to keep the club afloat.
Politician Laporta said he had the crucial trust of Messi because of his previous leadership of the club, when the striker broke into the first team, revolutionary manager Pep Guardiola was appointed and Barca won two Champions League titles between 2003 and 2010.
Now 58, the Catalonian has admitted that Messi has been “repeatedly lied to” and argued that he could keep the all-time Barcelona top scorer at the club while rescuing the Spanish giants from financial ruin.
“If Messi says no to the [contract] renewal, we will take it with [grace] and we will have to move on,” said Laporta, who is hoping to become president again in next month’s elections.
“It will not be an impediment for us. We will certainly make the club competitive by starting a new phase in history.”
Laporta stressed that Ansu Fati, the 18-year-old sensation whose five goals in ten matches this season have given him a much higher goals-per-game ratio that Messi and Antoine Greizmann, would not be a direct successor to the Argentina legend.
“I want to be clear that Ansu Fati is not the ‘new Messi’,” he emphasized. “To say that is a mistake.
“Sometimes, if you skip a few steps, you don’t make a good contribution to a footballer’s career.
“Ansu Fati has a great natural talent, it is true, but he must be accompanied and helped in his growth path – just like we did with Leo, Pedro or Sergi Roberto.”
Despite his insistence that his plans would proceed with or without Messi’s departure at the end of this season, Laporta showed shades of his political talent by declaring that he was “sure” Messi “wants to continue” at his boyhood club, adding that he could not “see Messi in a shirt that isn’t Barca’s”.
“[The club] have repeatedly lied to him and, on top of that, things haven’t gone as everyone wanted,” Laporta told ESPN. “He is at a point in his career where he still wants to be successful and win titles.
“The story between him and the club is so beautiful that the incoming president is obliged to make sure it continues.
“The club on the brink of bankruptcy. That is one of the reasons why I am running. I did the same in 2003 to turn around a delicate situation. The magnitude is much bigger this time but the structure is the same.
“Along with turning around the club’s financial situation, the priority is to make a proposal to Lionel that convinces him to stay. I hope I arrive in time. And I have an advantage: Messi’s trust.
“He knows the offer I make will be real and I will fulfil it. I think that will help a lot and is an advantage over the other candidates.”
“The situation is difficult but, despite everything, we’re [the football club] that generates the most revenue. But we will have to find socios [club members] working in certain areas that can help us generate even more.”