Lionel Messi was forced to leave Barcelona in August and broke down in tears at his going away press conference; now, since his move to Paris Saint-Germain, Joan Laporta is seeking to move the goalposts over his departure
The Catalan giants’ financial mismanagement meant that its club captain and record goalscorer was forced out of Camp Nou in August.
Messi, 34, had wanted to stay at Barca but was forced to leave with the crisis club’s debts, combined with La Liga regulations, meaning they couldn’t afford to keep him.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner broke down in tears at his farewell press conference, before completing a switch to PSG days later.
Lauded as a hero off the field in the French capital, it has taken time for Messi to settle on the pitch, with injuries and fitness issues playing their part.
But he finally made his mark in stunning fashion with a magnificent individual effort in the 2-0 Champions League win over Manchester City last month.
Now, in an interview with France Football he has insisted that he is happy with Les Parisiens’ – having been left with little choice other than to leave his home of 21 years.
“Barca issued the statement saying that I was not going to continue and from that point on I started to wonder how I was going to bounce back.”
“I had to find a new club to continue my career. I was lucky to be contacted by several clubs including PSG. I am grateful to the club because from the start they treated me very well.
“They showed they really wanted me and took care of me. I thank them because I am very happy today. I received other offers, but … we came to an agreement with PSG quite quickly.
“I was obviously won over by the project, the players it has, the quality of the group … all these elements made it easier to find an agreement.
“Knowing that I had friends in the locker room allowed me to tell myself that things were going to be simple for me to adjust. And I was not wrong, because it was very easy to integrate myself, especially because there are many players who speak Spanish like me.”
His comments come amid misleading public claims from the current Barcelona president that he had hoped Messi would remain at Barca and “play for free”.
Laporta – who had been returned to power after campaigning on a platform that he would keep Messi at the club – even went as far as to claim that La Liga “would have accepted it”.
“With Messi I do not get angry because I appreciate him,” he told RAC1. “I know he had a huge desire to stay, but also a lot of pressure because of the offer he had.
“Everything indicates that he already had the offer from PSG. Everyone knew that he had a very powerful offer. We knew from Messi that they had a very good offer.
“At no time do I think of going backwards. I think I’m doing the best for Barca. Nobody can put the institution at risk.
“I did hope that at the last minute Messi would say that he would play for free. I would have liked that and he would have convinced me. I understand that the league would have accepted it. But we cannot ask that of a player of his level.”
However that claim is disingenuous at best, given Spanish law dictates that it would have been illegal for Messi to take more than a 50 percent reduction, a law that is in place to avoid financial manipulation.
That’s something Laporta knows – but it doesn’t quite help with his PR right now.
Messi did offer to halve his salary, the maximum amount possible, all sides have confirmed.
However, such is the dire state of the entity that has long positioned itself as ‘More than a club’ that it wasn’t enough.