Barcelona president Joan Laporta has shouldered the responsibility of Lionel Messi’s departure from the team in 2021, although adding that he did not have many options in the first place.
Messi left Barcelona in the summer of 2021 to move to Paris Saint-Germain after the team failed to hand him a new contract. Then in €1.35 billion of debt followed by the consequences of COVID-19, there simply was no way for Barcelona to hand their captain a new deal.
So when asked about how the situation affected Laporta on a personal level, the president told El Tiempo:
“A lot. At an institutional level, it represented something we did not know how to solve well. Here I take responsibility, even though I didn’t have many options either. The truth is that it is an issue that has always left me with the feeling that we could have resolved better.
“On a sporting level, having a player as talented as Leo Messi is always very good, he is the best player in the world.
Meanwhile, he also reminded Messi that Barcelona is and always will be his home, but out of respect for PSG, the president did not comment about it much.
“We are overcoming this circumstance, we are convinced that Messi knows that Barça is his home and that we love him very much, but out of respect for PSG and Messi himself, it is a subject that we cannot delve into very deeply,” he added.
Furthermore, Laporta was also asked about Gerard Pique’s early retirement, to which he said he is not really surprised mostly because he had been talking about it with the team since the beginning of the season.
“No, because we had been talking about it since the beginning of the season. Piqué is an extraordinary player, he is a reference for Barcelona and always will be, and he is also a person with whom I have a very good relationship.
“Finally, he decided because he saw the sporting circumstances of this season. The coach had already told him that he would not count on him like last season and Piqué is a winner, a competitive man par excellence.
“He finally decided that it was time to retire, and he was able to do it by saying goodbye to the fans with dignity and recognition. I am sure that he is a person who will help Barça from wherever he is because he carries it in his heart.”
Laporta also current Liverpool winger Luis Diaz was a target for the club earlier this year, but Barcelona were fighting a losing battle as the Reds were already in advanced negotiation.
“There was practically no choice. When we arrived, he was a player that really interested us, but Liverpool already had very advanced negotiations with Porto,” said the president
“He is a very talented player, fast, he has a goal, he is explosive, but now he is a Liverpool player and that club deserves all my respect.”
The club president also talked about Barcelona’s Europa League tie against Manchester United, saying that the fixture is more or less a Champions League encounter.
“Well, the draw has mitigated it a bit: we have a Champions League game, which is Barça vs. Manchester United. There are many European teams that are very powerful and the Europa League is an important tournament.
“Obviously, it is not the Champions League, but we take it with sportsmanship. The important thing is that we have recovered, and overcome this situation, which could have caused the team to collapse.
Talking about the objectives for the season, he added: “Today the priority is La Liga, but we have other competitions, such as the Spanish Super Cup in Saudi Arabia, the Copa del Rey and this Europa League, which we have never won and which we would like to fight for as well.”
Meanwhile, when asked about financial fair play rules with regard to PSG and Manchester City, the president added,
“The criticism here is that not all of us are under the same rules. These clubs are in some leagues in which they participate, they can have a much more flexible capacity to act.
“Situations occur here, there are limited financial resources and if financial control standards are not met in a harmonized manner in all European countries, dysfunctions are created that leave us in direct competition with these state clubs. UEFA, FIFA and the respective leagues have a lot to say there.
“There is a fight that a few clubs have started so that there are regulations and everything is in accordance with the market and that these dysfunctions do not occur,” he concluded.