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"I am sad, but we did what was best for Barça." That was one of the sincere reflections from FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta in his appearance at Camp Nou's 1899 Auditorium this Friday morning to explain the departure from the club of its Argentinian star Lionel Messi. With the impossibility of including the Messi deal within the Financial Fair Play regime, a set of rules intended to prevent clubs from spending more than they earn, he pointed the finger at the previous Barça board, headed by Josep Maria Bartomeu, and the inflexible rules of Spain's Liga.

It was just two days ago that Laporta understood that there was no solution. They had expected to sign the renewal of the Argentinian star's contract on Thursday, but events took a radical turn and now Messi has had to leave to comply with the financial regulations. “It’s a situation of disappointment for both parties,” he explained.

Bartomeu's poisonous legacy

It was not an easy press appearance - in fact, probably the most difficult in either of Laporta's presidencies of the club. Emotional, angry and nostalgic, he arrived at Camp Nou this morning looking serious before taking his place in the press room. And, starting as he meant to go on, he explained that the club has done everything it can, but despite a player-club accord for the renewal, it has been impossible to formalize it.

joan laporta rueda de prensa leo messi efe

Joan Laporta during the press conference / EFE

"The basis of everything is the calamitous and disastrous situation left by the previous board," he said forcefully. The primary culprit of the desperate club situation that has been reached is Bartomeu, although he was not mentioned by name at any time by his successor. “It’s mismanagement that is hard to understand, as is the way decisions were made,” Laporta added. "It took us a couple of months to do an audit, on everything from the BarçaGate social media scandal to the Espai Barça stadium expansion project, to merchandising... a black hole," he explained.

In addition, still referring to the previous board, he stated that "the numbers were much worse than we had been told and had anticipated." Laporta confessed that a historic loss of 487 million euros is expected. But that was not all, as "the expected debt is much higher and we had some sports contracts in place that meant we had no margin on salary."

Messi Bartomeu Barça FC Barcelona

A hug between former Barça president Josep Maria Bartomeu and Leo Messi / FC Barcelona

The Liga's inflexibility

He then spoke about Spain's Liga and the Financial Fair Play conditions it has set. Over the Professional Football League, the organization chaired by Javier Tebas, Laporta was adamant: "The League should have been more flexible, but that's no excuse." Laporta and Barça knew the rules of the game, but regret that despite efforts to accommodate the renewal of Leo Messi within these norms, they were not permitted to sign him. Not with the first contract agreed, and nor with a second one involving reduced sums, which was agreed with the Argentinian footballer.

He also stated that in order for the Messi deal to fit into an acceptable financial framework, the club had to give its approval to the giant CVC operation, under which this international investment fund was to invest  2.7 billion euros into the Spanish league. The move, which Tebas's organization promoted and which is now in doubt, was ruled out by Laporta because "it would have meant mortgaging the club and its television rights for half a century". Laporta reaffirmed that the club has to come above everything else: "The club is above the players, and even above the best player in the world."

He said that "the sporting payroll represents 110% of the club's wage bill." That is, with Messi in the team. Without the Argentinian it drops to 95%, still above the allowed limits. With no margin to do anything, he stated that they will be able to register the players signed this summer, but even that is not 100% guaranteed. And he recalled again that it has been the fault of "the disastrous management by the previous board."

And he stated that "the ratio we have in Barça's salary limit is 4-1. To increase by 20 million euros [in new players' contracts] we have to free up 100 million". A dramatic situation that can only mean salary reductions for the players in the first team. Laporta explained that they are working in this direction, but that "it is not at all easy and some players have already lowered their salaries in previous negotiations".

Eternal thanks to Leo Messi

Laporta admitted to being "sad", and especially so knowing that "Leo wanted to stay at Barça and we wanted him to stay". The captain is thus forced to leave suddenly but the Barça president states that "we will be eternally grateful to him".

In addition, the president also confirmed that "Leo has shown his love for Barça" through all the efforts he has made to be able to continue playing at the club. "He has shown that he wants to stay at Barça even if the financial offer does not reach the others he has had," he explained.

Eulogising the Argentinian, Laporta commented that "Leo leaves an excellent legacy, he has made history, he is the player who has accumulated the most successes ever... he has left his mark and has been the reference point for a splendid era for Barça". But after the praise came the stark reality: "I hope we can overcome it."

"A new era is beginning, and it is a turning point at Barça," said Laporta, with a blank stare on his face. He acknowledged that they had to take a final decision because "the player has other proposals and there was a time limit involved."

Laporta also expressed the idea that "we have brought forward the post-Messi era by two years". Thus, despite the promised contract renewal with Messi being for five seasons, it was planned that the Argentinian's time at the club would end two or three seasons from now. The Barça president acknowledged that "we had been in negotiations for more than two months and we have been through several phases", but in the end they were unable to meet the limits imposed by the League and "there are other clubs that want the rules to be met".

"Barça has 122 years of history and we have always moved forward," said the president. And he also affirmed that "the homage that will be given to Leo Messi will be whatever he wants." Laporta assured that "we could pay a tribute to him every day for all that he has done for Barça", but yes, they will give him the farewell that he deserves.

Now it only remains to see the direction in which Leo Messi's future takes him. In the days ahead, there will no doubt be news.


Main image: Joan Laporta during the press conference at the 1899 Auditorium, Camp Nou stadium / EFE