August 06, (THEWILL) – Sequel to the shocking exit of football legend Lionel Messi from La Liga side Barcelona, club President Joan Laporta addressed a Press Conference on Friday set the records straight about the circumstances that resulted in the Catalan side’s inability to keep their superstar player.
The conference was considered an immediate necessity given the rumours that began to spread as people speculated about the rationale behind the sudden twist in the contract story after hope of retaining Messi brightened with the progress of a new contract and the promised infusion of cash from a La Liga investment windfall.
Laporta prioritised retaining Messi in his campaign to return as La Blaugrana President in March and the exit of Messi in August is a direct consequence of the expiration of the previous contract at the end of June that made Messi a free agent from the month of July.
However, Laporta refused to take the personal blame for the failure to get Messi to say, variously pointing the finger at La Liga’s financial rules, and at previous Barca administrations for failing to manage the club’s finances more soundly and leaving him with a pile of financial recklessness to unknot. But is he right?
In Friday’s conference, the 59-year-old began by explaining 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… Situation is worse than we were told and what we had calculated based on official data.”
New regulations about signing players also impacted on their decision and the fresh funds coming in came with conditions they could not accept just to simply sign Messi, Laporta clarified as he continued:
“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.
“[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.”
He placed some of the blame on the league with his insistence that the Javier Tebas-led management failed to accommodate Messi’s financial requirements in Barca’s attempts to resign the Argentine:
“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.
“I am sad but I also think that we have done the best for Barcelona. Barcelona is above anyone, including the best player in the world. We will always be thankful to him.
I don’t want to create false expectations. The player has got other offers. 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.
“Leo is not happy. 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.”
As true as all these may be, as club president, he must reserve come blame for himself. It was a big campaign promise he made to keep Messi and even if the league regulations have limited how far they can go to make Messi remain, he cannot be completely absolved of all blame.
In the time he has been President, even as he put the audit into motion to rectify the club’s expenses, if he had been able to push out some deadwood and fringe players as the club now considers Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and some other players they are desirous to take off their books as quickly as possible, the Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules may not have resulted in Messi’s exit.
Furthermore, there was enough time to work out a contract before June ending turned Messi into a free agent and everything possible could have been explored before that happened to prevent a situation where new regulations are impinging on what is possible for Barca in the messy situation of Messi’s situation.
That is why he must take a portion of the blame himself, granted that there are portions reserved for all those others he points to in the whole unfortunate debacle for the club and the league as a whole.