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17 Feb, 2020 15:14

Barcelona deny sensational claims that bosses paid social media firm to attack reputation of Messi & other key figures

Barcelona deny sensational claims that bosses paid social media firm to attack reputation of Messi & other key figures

Barcelona have been forced to deny sensational claims that club bosses have used a social media company to besmirch the reputation of their own players including captain Lionel Messi.

Reports in the local press have alleged that Barcelona used the services of I3 Ventures with a view to tarnishing the image of stars such as Messi and defender Gerard Pique, as well as potential presidential candidates and other figures such as former players and managers.

The incredible accusations, aired on the La Llotja del Què t’hi Jugues podcast and radio program on SER Catalunya, claimed that Twitter and Facebook accounts were run by I3 Ventures to protect the reputation of President Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board while diminishing that of others – including Messi and Pique – who have various ties with the club.

Barcelona bosses hit back at those claims on Monday, issuing a statement firmly denying the allegations.

“FC Barcelona 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,” the statement read.  

“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. 

“As such, FC 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. 

“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. 

“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,” it added.

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According to Forbes, posts have allegedly been made with the aim of attacking the images of players such as Messi and Pique – in the case of the former by discussing the activities of his wife.

Criticism has also been leveled at former manager Pep Guardiola, as well as retired stars Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez.

The scandal comes at a delicate time for relations with Messi in particular, after he was involved in a public spat with sporting director Eric Abidal over the sacking of manager Ernesto Valverde. 

Messi is under contract at the Nou Camp until 2021, but can reportedly walk away at the end of each season. 

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