Ansu Fati dismissed suggestions that inheriting Lionel Messi's number 10 shirt at Barcelona has brought additional expectations after committing his long-term future to the Catalan club.

Fati signed a new six-year contract to keep him at the club until 2027, with a release clause of €1billion included - a week after Pedri had penned a similar extension with the Blaugrana.

The Spain international burst onto the scene after making his debut in August 2019, becoming the club's youngest ever LaLiga goalscorer at the age of 16 years and 304 days.

He is also the youngest scorer in Champions League history, after netting against Inter in December 2019 a minute after his introduction from the bench.

The 18-year-old inherited the number 10 shirt after the departure of Barca great Messi, who left on a free transfer for Paris Saint-Germain amid salary cap issues with LaLiga in August.

However, Fati insisted that no pressure comes with the famous shirt as he expressed his desire to succeed with his boyhood club after coming up through the La Masia academy.

"My dream has always been to succeed here and continue growing here, luckily I will continue to do so," Fati told reporters on Thursday.

"I'm going to work every day to improve as a person and as a player. I have not done anything yet, I must continue working, mark my path.

"I am very grateful to the club for having trusted me, along with the captains. It could have been worn by another player, but I'm grateful.

"I was ready because they are at Barca and at Barca you must be prepared for everything. Wearing the '10' is not a pressure, it is one more motivation, I will do the best I can."

 

An almost year-long injury lay-off could have stunted the youngster's development, but he has managed two goals in five appearances since returning in September.

He has registered 15 goals in 48 games for the LaLiga giants in total, a tally that is bettered only by Luis Suarez (21), Antoine Griezmann (35) and Messi (69) – none of whom are still at the club – since his senior debut.

But Fati explained his ambition to keep improving at Barca, who are preparing for a Clasico showdown against Real Madrid on Sunday.

"I have a lot of room for improvement, especially listening to people who can help you," he continued. "I would like to improve everything, I have not done anything yet, with work.

"Playing a Clasico is a motivation, Madrid is our great rival. I know that the team is going to give everything for the victory.

"I trust the team, it is true that we have to improve as always. We are going to go out and compete and play at home, which is a factor in our favour."

Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu defended his Camp Nou tenure by insisting that he oversaw a "serious and responsible" period at the club.

Bartomeu stepped down as Barcelona chief in October 2020 after nearly seven years in the role ahead of a vote of no confidence against his leadership.

Barca won numerous major honours during that era, including their most recent Champions League in 2015, by which point concerns were growing over the club's transfer policy.

There has been a steady decline in recent years and the Catalan giants' financial problems have been laid bare since Laporta took over from Bartomeu in March.

The club's total debt has spiralled to the €1.35billion mark and they were unable to fulfil a contract that had been agreed with Lionel Messi in the most recent transfer window.

On the back of Messi's shock departure in August, Laporta alleged that Bartomeu was to blame due to his "disastrous" running of the club.

However, in his first interview since departing the club, Bartomeu has highlighted some of the positives from his tumultuous tenure. 

"Has our management been disastrous? I know it's a phrase that's been running but our management has been very serious and responsible," he told Mundo Deportivo.

"It was rigorous with a project and strategic plan that was established in 2015.

"Sports management and the entire heritage project prevailed, economically and socially. We've done many projects and we're the board that's been most active.

"But as of March 2020, that serious and rigorous management was truncated by the appearance of the coronavirus pandemic, which drastically decreased revenues. 

"From then on we suffered from a deep cut."

Asked again about Laporta's comments, Bartomeu said: "It has not been disastrous. There have been benefits of about €185m. It has been a good management.

"Forbes magazine said that in 2020 the club was the most valuable in the world."

Ex-Liverpool left-back Jose Enrique claims that former Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has "destroyed" the Catalan club.

Barca find themselves in difficult financial circumstances, with six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi forced to join Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer after the Blaugrana were unable to provide him with a new contract.

The Blaugrana have won just one trophy – a Copa del Rey – in the last two seasons and have not started their first campaign without Messi in 16 years well, sitting bottom of their Champions League group and winning just three of their first seven LaLiga games.

Jose Enrique believes the dramatic decline of a once-formidable club is down to a string of poor decisions from the hierarchy and points the finger primarily at Rosell, who served as Barca president from 2010 to 2014.

"Well, I think, with a completely open heart and honestly, I think Sandro Rosell has just destroyed this club," Jose Enrique told Stats Perform. 

"It is destroyed, economy-wise. [New Barca president Joan] Laporta is obviously taking everything now because obviously, it's anyone and everyone asking him for answers. But it's true that he arrives to a club that is very, very in debt with a lot of players on a lot of money."

 

The one-time Liverpool and Newcastle United defender was particularly scathing about Barca's activity in the transfer market over the last few years under the presidency of Josep Maria Bartomeu, who replaced Rosell in 2014 before stepping down in 2020.

"[Luis] Suarez, look what they did to him," Jose Enrique continued. "You sign [Antoine] Griezmann who really is not even half of the player that Suarez is. That's what it is. So, they do a lot of strange things.

"They go out and buy [Ousmane] Dembele for 100 million. They do a lot of stuff. I remember when they signed [Philippe] Coutinho, and I love Coutinho. But they play him as a left winger as well. When actually, he's more a midfielder or number 10.

"So, they've been doing so many things wrong for many years, and now they are taking [the consequences]. They lose Messi, who obviously is the standout player of this club. He was, he’s not anymore.

"Now they are struggling, and I believe to get back to their best is gonna take a while. I don't know how long, depends on their spending, depends how much income they have, because obviously, they have to get rid of a lot of players.

"Again, for example, [Miralem] Pjanic. When they signed Pjanic, they [sent] away Arthur Melo and you're giving away the player that Messi actually says is the closest player he's seen to Xavi. And that he's 23, and you take Pjanic who is 30.

"It's a strange thing, and you have to say, "why are these things happening?"

"Obviously, I don't want to blame anyone, but I'm sure there's been things behind [the scenes] that are still being discovered.

"When the club is struggling it is because something is going wrong behind [the scenes], that’s reality. And that's why Barcelona is in the situation it is right now because they've been doing things wrong. Simple as that."

Ronald Koeman is grateful to have been given "clarity" over his Barcelona future after president Joan Laporta confirmed the under-fire head coach will remain in charge of the beleaguered club.

Former Netherlands boss Koeman was widely reported to be on the verge of being sacked by Barca this week, with Saturday's trip to Wanda Metropolitano set to be his final game.

The Dutchman appeared to accept his fate when speaking to reporters at a pre-match news conference on Friday as he hit out at Laporta for failing to inform him face-to-face.

However, Laporta clarified ahead of Barca's clash with Atletico on Saturday – which ended in a 2-0 loss – that Koeman's position was not under threat regardless of the scoreline.

After being given a reprieve, the 58-year-old is already preparing for Barca's next batch of fixtures after the two-week international break.

"The conversation I had [with Laporta] over the phone last night was very good," Koeman said after the defeat to Atleti.

"We also spoke this morning about the squad, the club and other things. At least now there is some clarity in that sense. It's important for the dressing room that there is clarity. 

"But we are Barcelona, and now we have to start winning games. The pressure exists for any coach, particularly at Barcelona. After the break, we have three games we must win.

"We have spoken together and the president has made his decision."

 

Asked if he would have liked Laporta's backing sooner, Koeman said: "I think so, but we must highlight that it has now been said, and it will bring us tranquillity."

Laporta's public support came on the back of a run of one win in five games in all competition, which has now been extended by a further match following defeat to Atleti. 

Luis Suarez teed up Thomas Lemar for the opener and then tucked away the second himself before half-time to condemn his former side to their first league loss since May.

With that clinically taken goal, Suarez has now netted against all 31 of the teams he has faced in LaLiga, scoring 172 goals in total.

Barca had the whole of the second half to respond but managed just two attempts on target, only one of which – a Philippe Coutinho one-on-one – seriously troubled Jan Oblak.

"I'm sad about the result, but we were good in parts of the game," Koeman said. "We also let ourselves down, especially for the first goal.

"We talked before the game about how to defend. They have a lot of depth, but we failed to defend and 1-0 is a complicated scoreline.

"At times we could have done more damage. At two goals down against a team like Atletico, it is very complicated. We had the Coutinho chance, but that's it.

"We could not create much. We have to recognise that creating against Atletico is not easy. You have to play very well as they have a lot of defensive strength.

 

The Catalan giants are ninth in LaLiga after seven matches, five points adrift of leaders Real Madrid, who they face later this month after the visit of Valencia.

"There is a solution to our problems," said Koeman, who has not won any of his three games against Diego Simeone in LaLiga (D1 L2).

"But that solution is not from today to tomorrow. We have to work hard and give time to the youngsters. I also hope we will be able to recover injured players soon."

Joan Laporta says under-pressure head coach Ronald Koeman will stay on as head coach regardless of Barcelona's LaLiga result at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

Koeman was reported to be on the brink of the sack following a 3-0 Champions League defeat at Benfica on Wednesday.

The cash-strapped Blaugrana are bottom of Group E after they were beaten by the same scoreline at home by Bayern Munich and headed into the weekend occupying seventh spot in LaLiga.

Club legend Xavi, Roberto Martinez and Erik ten Hag have been linked with the Barca job, with Koeman coming under increasing scrutiny.

Barca president Laporta revealed Koeman will remain in the role even if his side are beaten by Diego Simeone's champions.

"Koeman will stay on as head coach regardless of the result. He will stay. He deserves a margin of confidence. He loves Barça, he's a reference point. I have spoken to him and I have drawn my conclusions. He took over Barça at a difficult time," Laporta said.

"He may have had moments of discouragement but he has recovered his spirits. After talking to him, I can see that he has confidence in this team, especially as soon as he has the injured players back. From then on, we will have more room for manoeuvre.

"We have not had a cold relationship. It's a good and honest relationship. He's a good person, he thinks the same about me and we’re all trying to turn things around for the better."

 

Koeman stated in a press conference on Friday that he has not spoken to Laporta amid speculation over his future.

"The club hasn't told me anything, really," the former Netherlands boss said at a news conference on Friday previewing his side's clash with Atletico.

"I found out that the president was here this morning but I didn't see him. We were training but I'm still the same. 

"I have ears and eyes and I already know that a lot of things leak. Surely it's true but to me, once again, he has not said anything to me.

"I am not the most important thing, but the team. I am here for the love of the club. I came here during a complicated situation – more complicated than the first day.

"Everyone has their opinion but I am only interested in the players and the Atletico game."

Ronald Koeman seemingly accepted that his time as Barcelona head coach is up but has questioned whether his replacement will do a better job with the players available.

Wednesday's 3-0 loss to Benfica – making it back-to-back defeats to begin a Champions League campaign for the first time in Barca's history – has upped the pressure on Koeman.

Amid a run of one win in five matches in all competitions, reports from Spain on Friday suggest this weekend's trip to Atletico will be the Dutchman's last in charge.

Barca president Joan Laporta is said to have made the decision in the wake of the heavy loss in Lisbon and a replacement will reportedly be brought in during the international break.

While Koeman has yet to discuss his future with Laporta, the ex-Netherlands boss admits the reports in the Spanish and Catalan press are telling.

"The club hasn't told me anything, really," he said at a news conference on Friday previewing his side's clash with Atletico. 

"I found out that the president was here this morning but I didn't see him. We were training but I'm still the same. 

"I have ears and eyes and I already know that a lot of things leak. Surely it's true but to me, once again, he has not said anything to me.

"I am not the most important thing, but the team. I am here for the love of the club. I came here during a complicated situation – more complicated than the first day.

"Everyone has their opinion but I am only interested in the players and the Atletico game."

 

Luis Enrique and Roberto Martinez, in charge of Spain and Belgium respectively, ruled themselves out of the running to replace Koeman this week.

A number of other high-profile names have been linked, but Koeman – who saw Lionel Messi depart for Paris Saint-Germain in August – feels the situation will remain the same.

"I don't know if another coach would be able to get more out of this side," he said. "There are a lot of young players here.

"There's been talk about the system, but that's because players are unavailable. There are no wingers. The job of the coach is to work with the players available.

"If I had a bag of money, I would still have Messi here and other players alongside him. If we recover attacking players, we can have a strong and young squad."

Jordi Cruyff, who was appointed as a sporting advisor by Barca in June, is another who has been tipped to succeed Koeman in the coming days or weeks.

"I talk to Jordi every day," Koeman said. "But what we talk about stays between us. From the first day he told me he was not going to take over as the club's coach."

 

Koeman has been under pressure since the end of last season and the 58-year-old has regularly had to defend his position.

"I'm tired of doing that," he said when asked to highlight the work he has done in his 14 months at the helm.

"We have done important things during a period of change. One day I will speak and say what I think."

Asked for his best and worst moments in charge, Koeman said: "It seems I'm out but the best was signing for the club, the worst was Messi's departure."

Koeman's immediate focus is on the match with Atletico, who have beaten Barca just once in their last 11 league meetings in the Spanish capital.

A victory for the Catalan giants would move them above the champions in the table, though Koeman is expecting another tough test.

"We are sides with different styles, but they both lead to winning many things," he said. "They were deservedly champions last season.

"It's difficult to create chances against them. They are great at defending their area and you have to be very good with the last pass. Only by scoring can you beat them."

Young midfielder Pedri and full-back Jordi Alba have both been ruled out of the match through injury.

Luis Enrique has no interest in replacing Ronald Koeman at Barcelona while he is still under contract as Spain head coach.

Koeman is under growing pressure at Camp Nou following Wednesday's 3-0 defeat to Benfica, which makes it back-to-back defeats for Barca to begin a Champions League campaign for the first time ever.

The Catalan giants have now won just one of their past five matches in all competitions ahead of Saturday's trip to reigning LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid.

According to reports from Spain, Barca chiefs will consider replacing Koeman during the upcoming international break should they fall to another defeat this weekend.

Luis Enrique is rumoured to be one of the club's top choices to take over should Koeman leave, but the former Blaugrana boss intends to serve the rest of his contract with Spain, which is due to expire after the World Cup in December 2022.

Asked if Barcelona president Joan Laporta had contacted him regarding the position, Luis Enrique said: "I don't think he has my phone number.

"I'm a coach here for a second time, and it's my custom to keep my word. I'll be here until my contract ends, for sure.

"Despite my proud history with that club, I don't want to get involved in other people's business."

Luis Enrique, who won nine trophies across a hugely successful three-year spell in charge of Barca, was speaking at a news conference on Thursday after announcing Spain's 23-man squad for the upcoming Nations League Finals.

Spain face European champions Italy in next Wednesday's semi-final at San Siro, with the winners of that match to take on either Belgium or France in the final four days later.

 

The high-profile match in Milan presents La Roja with a chance to exact some revenge following their penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 semi-finals a little under three months ago.

The Azzurri went on to beat England on penalties in the final and have remained unbeaten in their three World Cup qualifiers since that Wembley triumph.

Roberto Mancini's men set a new all-time record of 37 matches without defeat in men's international football with their 5-0 win over Lithuania earlier this month, surpassing the benchmark previously set by Brazil between 1993 and 1996.

"Italy are at their peak and were deserving champions at the Euros," Luis Enrique told reporters. "They have continued with that streak since then, but the day they lose for the first time is near. 

"We were capable of beating them in the tournament, but we didn't. This game will demand a lot from us as they are a team of the highest level, which is where we want to be.

"Whichever players I select on the day, I hope it will be another spectacular game."

Ronald Koeman's job as Barcelona head coach does not depend on the outcome of Thursday's meeting with Cadiz, but president Joan Laporta has warned that "if decisions have to be taken, we will take them".

The Dutchman is under growing pressure following a slow start to the campaign that has seen Barca drop points to Athletic Bilbao and Granada in their opening four LaLiga games, while also losing 3-0 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Amid reports Barca are lining up replacements for Koeman, with Belgium boss Roberto Martinez supposedly among the candidates, Koeman refused to answer any questions from reporters at Wednesday's news conference previewing the trip to Cadiz.

Koeman instead chose to read a prepared statement in which he urged Barca fans to have patience with the process while claiming the club's hierarchy – including Laporta – was fully behind him.

There have even been suggestions in the Spanish press that Thursday's clash at Estadio Nuevo Mirandilla could be the 58-year-old's last in charge should Barca fail to pick up all three points.

While Laporta insisted that is not the case, the Barca chief fell short of guaranteeing that the former Netherlands boss will remain in charge further down the line if results do not pick up.

"Koeman's future doesn't depend on the result tonight," he told El Chiringuito outside the Barcelona team hotel on Thursday. "We are with the coach. He's Barca's first team coach and what we want is for things to go well.

"All coaches, not just Koeman, depend on results, and in Barca's case on their style of play. Koeman is our coach and we're with him today."

 

Barcelona have failed to win five of their last eight LaLiga games stretching back into last season, as many as in their previous 24 matches in the competition, and are eighth in the table ahead of their game in hand.

Koeman this week spoke out in the Dutch media about the wider issues at Camp Nou and how Lionel Messi, who departed for Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer last month, papered over the cracks with his individual brilliance.

But Laporta does not want to use Messi's shock departure, plus the subsequent exit of Antoine Griezmann, as an excuse for Barca's disappointing run of results.

"We see that the team isn't working as we all were hoping," Laporta said. "In that sense, we'll act thinking always of Barcelona... If decisions have to be taken, we'll take them.

"What I don't like is a conformist attitude, a certain defeatism, that can't be allowed at Barcelona. We have the team we have, but we can aspire to win LaLiga and the players say to me that we have to be optimistic.

"We have to work, we have to fight every day, because I believe you achieve success with daily work. Less talking and more doing, more working."

Barcelona have failed to win their last two LaLiga games against Cadiz (D1 L1). If they fail to win Thursday's match, it will be their longest winless run against the Andalusian side in the competition.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has called for patience and trust from the fanbase as he attempts to "solve" the Catalan giants' on and off the field problems.

Years of financial mismanagement caught up with Barca last month as they lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.

Antoine Griezmann was also sent back to title rivals Atletico Madrid on an initial loan amid a flurry of late activity in an attempt to help balance the books.

Barca's solid, if not spectacular. start to the LaLiga campaign, in which they have picked up seven points from a possible nine, helped lift the mood around Camp Nou somewhat.

But a crushing 3-0 loss to Bayern Munich on Tuesday – the first time Barca have lost their opening Champions League game in 23 seasons – has changed all that.

Sergi Roberto was booed by a section of his own supporters when being substituted off during the game, which captain Gerard Pique admitted left him feeling "hurt".

With supporter unrest growing during a tough period for the LaLiga heavyweights, Laporta issued a video statement on his social media channels on Wednesday.

"Hello Cules. I am as disappointed and upset as all of you are," he said. "I need to tell you what is happening. This is one of the situations that we expected. 

"I ask you all for your patience, and that you continue supporting our team. I also ask you to trust us, the people who are managing the club. 

"We need your trust and time. Do not doubt that we will solve the situation."

Bayern's prolific striker Robert Lewandowski helped himself to a double after Thomas Muller had opened the scoring in the first half of Tuesday's Group E clash.

Barca have lost three successive home games in European competition for the first time in their history, having also lost to Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain at Camp Nou last season.

In their first European game since Messi's exit, the Catalans failed to register a shot on target in a Champions League match for the first time since Opta started recording such data in 2003-04.

Ronald Koeman claimed he has no issues with Barcelona president Joan Laporta after suggestions of a fractured relationship between the pair.

Barca limped to a third-place finish last term in LaLiga – seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid – and were knocked out in the last-16 stages of the Champions League by Paris Saint-Germain.

Laporta subsequently undertook a managerial replacement search in June before deciding to stick with Koeman, who said to NOS some of his president's previous comments were "not wise".

However, ahead of the Champions League clash with Bayern Munich on Tuesday, the Catalan club's head coach offered assurances on his relationship with Laporta.

"Our relationship is good," Koeman told Monday's pre-match news conference. "If there are things, we talk about them.

"We want the best of the club, which is always the most important thing.

"I don't have a problem with the president and we talk about things about the club, a perfect relationship for me. We've had little things, but we're fine."

Koeman, who lost Blaugrana legend Lionel Messi from his squad in August to PSG amid financial complications with LaLiga, has afforded numerous youngsters an opportunity in the opening games.

Indeed, Barca have utilised the most Under-21 players among Spanish top-flight squads so far (eight) as Koeman feels this is his best option with all the financial issues surrounding the club.

"The only thing I have said is that I am a coach who gives opportunities to young players," Koeman responded when asked about his NOS interview.

"You never know if another coach will give as many opportunities as we do. I am a coach and I seek the best for the club.

"We know it is a complicated situation, but we are improving things and one of these is giving opportunities to young people, who are the future of the club."

And after suggesting the club had a future thanks to his work, Koeman backtracked on his comments slightly: "My future is not important, the future of the club and the team is important. Tomorrow we have an opportunity to compete.

"Being a Barcelona coach is winning games and we are at a time when we have to work."

Ronald Koeman insists his work has been paramount in saving Barcelona, but his relationship with club president Joan Laporta is yet to fully recover.

The Catalan club underwhelmed in Koeman's first term last campaign, finishing third – seven points behind champions Atletico Madrid – in LaLiga and exiting at the Champions League's last-16 stage to Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca's problems were further compounded in August, amid financial difficulties and complications with LaLiga, when Blaugrana legend Lionel Messi departed on a free and several players had to take pay cuts to allow registration of new signings.

However, despite Koeman's seemingly fragile relationship with Laporta, who went on an unsuccessful managerial replacement search in June, the Dutchman is enjoying his time at Camp Nou as he looks ahead to a potential new contract.

"It has improved a bit [the relationship with Laporta]," Koeman told NOS. "But when you let things blow a bit as a club and are not clear about the future of a coach, then you get speculation.

"And if you are the one who is the coach, then that is not a nice case.

"Last week there was also something in the media, which I think was not right. That again suggests that the trainer does not have full power.

"He said a little too much. That can be done in private. I like it when a president is committed and also asks questions. Only that it should not be in the press, that was the problem.

"Laporta was not wise on two occasions, let me put it this way. We are also in contact about a new contract now. Thanks to me, this club has a future.

"I see a lot of potential. I am open to stay here, I am enjoying myself here."

Koeman's new-look team, in the absence of Messi, have picked up seven points from their first three matches, with Barca utilising the most under-21 players in their Spanish top-flight matchday squads so far (eight).

Indeed, the former Netherlands manager revealed academy products will always get chances under his stewardship as he warned Barca's financial struggles will have a knock-on impact on their competitiveness in Europe.

"It's not just Pedri," Koeman continued. "There are still four or five players aged 18 or 19 who will be fantastic players for this club in three or four years.

"Accepting things and not being able to do things that maybe they [the club] should. That's the moment. Focus on the youth and give them a chance.

"Barcelona is in debt and therefore has to deal with fair play in Spain. The best players cannot come to Barcelona because they have higher contracts and cost a lot of money, which the club does not have.

"Sportingly, this club will always be good. The question is, can you get back to the level where you will really win Champions Leagues and be the best in Spain for years in a row? That is not the case at the moment. Let's hope that it will come again."

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has been accused by LaLiga chief Javier Tebas of "psychologically kidnapping" Barcelona in recent years.

Tebas has previously criticised Barcelona for supporting a proposed Super League, which failed to get off the ground as a backlash quickly led to the withdrawal of nine of the 12 founding members.

The 59-year-old also more recently hit out at Barca and Madrid for rejecting a €2.7billion arrangement with CVC Capital Partners, a deal that he argued would have allowed the Catalan giants to keep hold of Lionel Messi.

In the latest exchange between two of the most powerful men in Spanish football, Tebas has now claimed Perez swayed Barcelona counterpart Joan Laporta's decision to not accept the offer on the table.

"I have the feeling that at Barca there's a 'psychological kidnapping' regarding Florentino, like an inferiority complex," Tebas told Sport. 

"Florentino is a very intelligent guy and Jose Angel Sanchez, his director general, is the most empathetic man in European football. 

"All that glamour and know-how, up against someone (Laporta) who's been outside the world of football for more than 10 years.

"Barca were in favour of the CVC deal right until Real Madrid said no... In the last 72 hours everything changed. I think it was very much connected to the Super League and the strategy that Real Madrid are following."

Years of financial mismanagement caught up with Barcelona last month when they were unable to offer a new contract to Messi due to LaLiga's financial restrictions.

However, Tebas has reiterated that Barca could well have kept hold of Messi – who has since joined Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent – had they signed up to the CVC investment.

"Yes, it could have been avoided," he said. "I spoke about it with Laporta personally... I think next season with the figures Barca put out, we'll see if Messi could really have stayed or not.

"It wasn't a financial decision. I know that for sure. If Laporta shook hands with Messi, it was because for a month he had accepted the CVC offer. 

"He was in favour for a month. That's why he said things were going well. He even called me twice to speed up the CVC operation, because Messi was getting nervous."

Losing six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi to Ligue 1 giants PSG is a major blow for LaLiga, even more so than the previous high-profile exits of other big name players and coaches in the view of Tebas.

"Just like when Cristiano Ronaldo, Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho left. We knew that one day this would happen," he said.

"We have had the great luck of having the two best footballers in the world in the two best teams in the world and from LaLiga we have been able to take advantage of this to put ourselves on the world front line. 

"Perhaps Messi's departure has been a bit more painful, because personally I consider him the best in history, and he didn't deserve to leave like that, not only for Barça but for LaLiga as well."

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin would not mind if Juventus, Real Madrid and Barcelona quit the Champions League after the trio "tried to kill football".

Juve, Madrid and Barca were three of 12 clubs announced as founding members of the Super League in April, along with Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham, Milan, Inter and Atletico Madrid.

However, the contentious project failed to get off the ground as a backlash quickly led to the withdrawal of all six English teams involved, followed by Atleti, Milan and Inter.

All 12 founding Super League members quit the European Club Association (ECA) before the competition collapsed, but nine of the rebel clubs have since been welcomed back.

Madrid and financially stricken LaLiga rivals Barca retain a commitment to the ill-fated collaboration, as do Serie A giants Juve, yet each of those teams will compete in the Champions League when the group stage begins next week.

Taking aim at the presidents of the three breakaway clubs, Andrea Agnelli, Florentino Perez and Joan Laporta, Ceferin told Der Spiegel: "These three clubs simply have incompetent leaders. Those guys have tried to kill football.

"I would not mind if those teams left. It is very funny that they want to create a new competition and at the same time they want to play in the Champions League this season."

Speaking in April, Super League president Perez argued the competition would be the saviour of football as clubs struggled to adjust to the financial problems brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

Just four months on, though, Madrid tabled three offers for Kylian Mbappe, who is into the final year of his Paris Saint-Germain contract, with the third of the rejected bids reportedly worth up to €200million.

"He is criticising UEFA and saying that the club can only survive with a Super League, then he tries to sign Mbappe," Ceferin said of Perez.

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.

However, six-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi remaining at Camp Nou was impossible, according to Laporta.

"What happened is what has been explained," Laporta told Esport3. "There are objective data. Everyone can compare. We were pressured that we would either sign the CVC loan [deal] or there is no fair play.

"There was no margin. There was a pre-agreement and we had shaken hands. There were several agreements and LaLiga seemed to accept it, but then they said no without CVC. We didn't think that the situation was going to improve and we put an end to it.

"Messi could not have stayed even with Griezmann's [departure] and with the salary reduction of the captains. But it is important that we have lowered the salary cap because next year we can be more ambitious.

"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 have done is admirable. They are committed to the club, to the members. It is admirable. And we will continue with other players, such as [Samuel] Umtiti and others from the first team. We are in a process that is not easy.

"First the captains have set an example, and now we will continue with others."

Ronald Koeman's Barca have made an unbeaten start to the 2021-22 campaign, winning two of their opening three LaLiga fixtures to be level on seven points with leaders Real Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Atletico and Mallorca.

"I like Koeman," said Laporta. "We won the game against Getafe. They are not easy games."

Barcelona president Joan Laporta has once again hit out at predecessor Josep Maria Bartomeu after revealing the LaLiga club's debt has risen to €1.35billion.

The Catalan giants' financial problems have been well documented since it emerged in January that their total debt had exceeded the €1.1bn mark.

Barca's money issues have led to the shock departure of Lionel Messi on a free transfer, while Gerard Pique has accepted a substantial pay cut and fellow captains Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto are set to follow suit.

But years of what Laporta described as mismanagement by the previous board have caught up with Barca, as he laid out the true scale of their debt on Monday - including some remarkable allegations.

"When we took over we asked for a bridge loan of €80m, granted by Goldman Sachs because we would not have been able to pay the salaries of players and employees," he said.

"The previous board had received an advance of €79m relating to 50 per cent of LaLiga's television rights and the banks charged it at nine per cent interest.

"The reduction of wages by the previous board was not real. We have found those millions in different types of bonuses and variables included in the new contracts. 

"We have found disproportionate payments to intermediaries, not agents, a transfer that cost €40m and for a purchase premium we paid €8m and a sale premium of €2m. 

"A person was also paid €8m to find players in South America."

Laporta called a news conference to respond to an open letter issued by Bartomeu on Friday which effectively pointed the finger of blame for Messi's exit at the current incumbent.

Breaking down the letter into what he alleges are eight different lies, Laporta said: "It obeys an effort to justify management that is unjustifiable. 

"It is an exercise in despair. We have a salary bill that represents 103 per cent of the club's total income. It represents 20-25 per cent more than our competitors.

"No one is going to escape from those responsibilities. The economic situation is worrying and the financial situation is dramatic. 

"Barcelona has a net worth of minus €451m and a debt of €1.35bn."

In his lengthy letter, Bartomeu – who stepped down as Barca chief in October 2020 after nearly seven years in the role – questioned why Barca reached an out-of-court settlement with former player Neymar over money owed.

"He talks about Neymar," Laporta said. "He says that we have forgone €16.7m. That's another lie, it is not true. And you could remind Bartomeu of the damage that the Neymar case did to the image of Barca. Because it was an infinity of lies. 

"When he sold Neymar for €222m, they had already spent disproportionately. This triggered wages and amortisation."

Pique's decision to accept a reduced salary ensured Barca could register new signings Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia for their opening LaLiga game of the campaign on Sunday.

"I thank Pique for his willingness to help the club. His reduction has helped us to register players," Laporta added. "We can register Sergio [Aguero] with the agreement we plan to have with the other players. I hope the other captains act like Pique.

"The negotiations with the others are going well. Alba, like Busquets and Sergi Roberto, is behaving very well and we hope that we will reach an agreement soon. As soon as we can, we will acknowledge it."

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