Barcelona deny hiring company to 'damaging the image' of Messi, Guardiola and others

By Sports Desk February 17, 2020

Barcelona have denied allegations they hired a company to "damage the image" of people associated with the club by spreading negative messages on social media platforms.

Spanish radio network Cadena SER on Monday published a story claiming Barca had been working with a company to produce online content through unofficial accounts aimed at protecting president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the board.

Pep Guardiola, Xavi, Carles Puyol and former president Joan Laporta were said to have been the subjects of negative posts, while current players Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were also targeted, according to the report.

But Barca are adamant the claims are false, insisting I3 Ventures – the company they have worked with – is not behind the accounts in question.

A club statement read: "With regards to information published today about the contracting of a company dedicated to creating opinion on social media with a view to damaging the image of third parties related directly or indirectly with the club, Barcelona: 

"1.- Roundly deny any relationship, and furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social media accounts that have broadcast negative or disparaging messages related to any person, entity or organisation that may be, or have been, related to the club. 

"2.- I3 Ventures, a service provider to the club, has no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship was to come to light, the club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests. 

"3.- As such, Barcelona confirm that it has services contracted relating to the monitoring of social media with the aim of analysing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself. 

"4.- With the contracting of these services, the club is attempting to look after and preserve its reputation as well those of people related to the club (sponsors, players, board members, members, supporters' club members...), as far as the protection of this reputation is a fundamental element and responsibility for those who work for the organisation. 

"5.- The club demands an immediate rectification of the information published and reserves the right to exercise legal action against those who continue to implicate the club in such practices."

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    Monday marks 10 years since Messi took that game against Arsenal by the scruff of the neck and produced one of the stand-out displays of his illustrious career.

    The Argentina great has lifted the Champions League trophy on four occasions and is the second-highest scoring player in the competition's history, sitting 14 adrift of all-time leader Cristiano Ronaldo's haul of 128 goals.

    We take a look back at some of Messi's greatest performances in the Champions League

     

    April 6, 2010 – Barcelona 4-1 Arsenal (6-3 agg)

    After they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 in the first leg at Emirates Stadium, Nicklas Bendtner put Arsenal ahead for the first time in the tie after 19 minutes in the return game at Camp Nou.

    Messi ensured it was Barcelona who progressed to the semi-finals, though.

    He slammed a stunning finish past Manuel Almunia two minutes later and slotted home a pass from Pedro to double his tally.

    A stunning chip over Almunia gave Messi his hat-trick before half-time, and he rounded off the 4-1 victory by grabbing a fourth at the second attempt after the Arsenal keeper stopped his initial effort at the end of a fine solo run.

     

    April 27, 2011 – Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

    A semi-final Clasico made for a mouth-watering prospect and, of course, Messi delivered on the grand stage.

    No list of his greatest goals would be complete without his second against arch-rivals Madrid. A one-two with Sergio Busquets enabled him to race free of Lassana Diarra and he shifted through the gears to skip away from Sergio Ramos and Raul Albiol.

    He then darted in front of Marcelo and slid the ball beyond Iker Casillas to silence the Santiago Bernabeu.

    A 1-1 draw in the second leg sent Barca into the final to face Manchester United…

     

    May 28, 2011 – Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United

    In a repeat of the 2009 final, the outcome at Wembley proved the same.

    Messi caused Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic problems from the off and, with the game locked at 1-1 after Wayne Rooney cancelled out Pedro's opener, he found the back of the nine minutes after half-time.

    After dropping deep from his centre-forward position, he received a pass from Andres Iniesta and drove forward before unleashing a powerful effort into the bottom-right corner.

    David Villa completed the scoring as Barca came out on top against Alex Ferguson's side again.

     

    March 7, 2012 – Barcelona 7-1 Bayer Leverkusen

    Leverkusen were on the receiving end of the greatest individual goalscoring display in Champions League history.

    Messi became the first player to score five in a single game in Europe's premier club competition, enrapturing Camp Nou with a supreme performance in the second leg of this last-16 tie.

    He got the ball rolling by scooping a long pass from Xavi beyond Bernd Leno, while his second came in trademark fashion – dribbling across the box from the right and firing a left-footed shot into the corner.

    After a delightful chip to secure his hat-trick in the 49th minute, a stunning exchange of passes with Pedro preceded an error from Leno that Messi nipped in to punish.

    A cool 18-yard finish left coach Pep Guardiola with an astonished look on his face. He had witnessed a performance for the ages.

     

    May 6, 2015 – Barcelona 3-0 Bayern Munich

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    To cap things off Messi fed Neymar for a counter-attacking third in the 94th minute, and Barca went on to beat Juventus in the final and claim the trophy.

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