August 14, (THEWILL) – The exit of Argentine superstar Lionel Messi from La Liga giants Barcelona is still causing ripples in the stormy waters of the Catalan club as the side’s former president Josep Maria Bartomeu has taken a swipe against his successor Joan Laporta, accusing him of badly managing the club’s finances.
As THEWILL reported in October 2020, just before a vote-of-no-confidence was passed on his administration, Bartomeu stepped down as President after nearly seven years in the role. The 58-year-old entrepreneur was also arrested for questioning by police in March, as THEWILL covered on Monday, March 1 this year.
The current administrator and club President Juan Laporta put the blame of losing Messi squarely on the head of Barça’s former board for leaving the club in such a bad financial mess that he could not fulfill a campaign promise he rode on which was to ensure that Messi did not leave as Barca was not able to conclude on an agreement with Messi due to La Liga restrictions.
But, in his first public comments on the high-profile move of Barca’s record-setting icon to the French side Paris Saint-Germain, Bartomeu fired back at Laporta by insisting that his planned economic measures, in place before the lockdowns, would have helped Barcelona through the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, he returned the favour by blaming Laporta for the fallout. Bartomeu explained why, saying: “As is known, our board of directors planned to call elections on March 21, within the statutory period at the end of our mandate, which would have allowed us to take on and carry out the settlement of the 2020-21 season accounts.
“We would then have taken the decisions necessary to avoid arriving at the current financial situation.
“We would have been the only ones responsible for the closure [due to the pandemic] and its consequences, a decision that the new board has not taken throughout these past months, making clear their inaction.”
The rationalisation that Bartomeu was making all was to arrive at the conclusion that the club had the capacity to stay within La Liga’s salary cap limit if they accepted external support, and therefore prevented the current situation where Messi exited Camp Nou to join former Barca teammate Neymar at Paris Saint-Germain,
He continued: “From April 2020 we began the Barcelona Corporate project, consisting, in summary, of the entry of four strategic partners. If [Laporta’s] board had approved the [Barcelona Corporate] project, it would have meant a capital injection of at least €220 million with the aim of reducing the income losses caused by COVID-19…which in 2020-21 could be 375 million.
“If to those €220 million we had added the necessary 20 per cent salary reduction (€90 million) from the players’ contracts, essential from March 21, 2021, when the worst expectations were confirmed, the salary ratio dictated by La Liga would have been complied with, allowing for players to be registered.”
The possibility of things panning out as Bartomeu has so beautifully painted is suspect because long before things came to the point of nearly being removed by a vote-of-no-confidence, there had been disquiet in the Catalan club about Bartomeu’s handling of the financials at the club to the point that the decisive vote-of-no-confidence was considered to remove him before things worsened.
The President’s falling out over the handling of club affairs regarding Messi had also gone beyond salvaging and was largely responsible for Messi’s attempt to force a transfer at the end of the 2019/2020 season which he reportedly did by fax.
There is no forgetting also that Bartomeu, together with his closest confidants while as President of the club, were arrested in March in a corruption investigation by the Mossos d’Esquadra, the Catalan police force.
All these point to the fact that there cannot be full exoneration of the former President for the underlying factors that brought Barca to this stage of losing Messi and to attempt to do that will be similar to the attempts of Laporta to completely wash his own hands off how he could not keep his own campaign promise of retaining Messi, which THEWILL also disagreed with.