Griezmann’s departure, Messi wouldn’t have been able to stay at Barcelona
Barcelona president, Joan Laporta, has insisted Lionel Messi could not have remained at Camp Nou, even with Antoine Griezmann leaving and the club’s captains reducing their wages amid mounting debt.
Barca’s financial issues – the LaLiga giants’ debt has risen to €1.35billion – led to the shock departure of superstar Messi to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
Gerard Pique accepted a substantial pay cut and fellow captains Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto followed suit to ensure the likes of Sergio Aguero could be registered for the new season, while Griezmann completed a sensational return to Atletico Madrid on deadline day.
According to Laporta, keeping Messi, a six-time Ballon d’Or winner, at Camp Nou was impossible.
“Everything that happened has been explained,” Laporta told Esport3. “There is data that is objective. Everyone can make comparisons. We were told that until we signed the CVC financing [agreement], there would be no fair play.
“There was no room for error. We had made a pre-arrangement and had shaken hands. Several agreements were reached, and LaLiga appeared to accept them, but they later declined without CVC. We didn’t think things were going to get better, so we put a stop to it.
“Messi could not have stayed, even with Griezmann’s [leaving] and the leaders’ salary cuts. However, the fact that we have cut the salary cap is essential because it allows us to be more ambitious next year.
I think we were both sad because the situation was not what we wanted. I have not spoken with Messi since. I saw his debut with PSG and it was strange to see him at another team, rivals. I did not like seeing him in another shirt.”
Laporta added: “The reduction [of the expenditure] is important – we have gone from 110 to 80 per cent. I want to congratulate the executives and the financial department of Barcelona for their work, and all those who have worked tirelessly and extraordinarily.
“And we have some heroes in Pique, Alba, Busquets, and we will seal [the deal with] Sergi Roberto.
What they’ve accomplished is admirable. They care about the club and its members. It’s commendable. We’ll also continue with other guys from the first team, such as [Samuel] Umtiti. We are going through a difficult time.
“First, the captains set an example, and now we’ll go on to the next group.”
Barca have started the 2021-22 season unblemished, winning two of their first three LaLiga games to draw level on seven points with leaders Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Atletico Madrid, and Mallorca.
“I like Koeman,” Laporta added. “We came out on top versus Getafe. These aren’t simple games.”