Messi couldn't stay at Barcelona, we were 'in ruins' – Laporta

By Sports Desk January 05, 2023

Barcelona president Joan Laporta reiterated keeping Lionel Messi at the club in 2021 was impossible because the club was "in ruins" financially.

Having come through Barca's academy, Messi's departure ended a 21-year association and highlighted the seriousness of the club's economic issues.

Messi's contract expired at the end of the 2020-21 season, and although he technically became a free agent, it was widely assumed Barca would re-sign him to a new deal once room was made in the budget.

But Barca – whose debts were at €1.35billion in August 2021 – had their LaLiga salary cap slashed by €280million ahead of the 2021-22 campaign as a result of their financial problems.

As such, even with a 50 per cent wage reduction reportedly agreed, Barca still could not afford to sign Messi to a new deal, and Spanish employment law forbids employers decreasing wages beyond 50 per cent.

"I had to put Barca ahead of the best player in the history of football," Laporta told Cadena SER.

"In those moments of financial ruin I couldn't keep him. I think it was the best thing for the club."

Of course, Messi continues to be linked with a return to Barca with his Paris Saint-Germain contract set to expire at the end of the season.

Similarly, reports suggest Messi has already agreed an extension with PSG, the announcement simply delayed by his participation in – and time off after – the World Cup.

Laporta was not eager to anger PSG – with whom Barca share a frosty relationship – by speaking about Messi, though his regret about the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner not having a greater send-off might be interpreted by some as him hinting at a potential second chance.

"I prefer not to talk about Leo because he is a PSG player, as then [if I spoke about him] there are missiles that come from everywhere," he added. "We are focused on the players who are ours.

"Leo will always be part of our emblem, and I would like him to have a different ending to the one he had."

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