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6 Aug, 2021 11:25

‘No one is above the club’: Barcelona boss Laporta urges distraught fans ‘to confront reality’ as he explains Messi exit

‘No one is above the club’: Barcelona boss Laporta urges distraught fans ‘to confront reality’ as he explains Messi exit

Barcelona fans must face up to the reality that Lionel Messi will no longer be playing for the Catalan giants, president Joan Laporta has said, asserting that the club “is above everyone and everything.”

Barcelona stunned the football world on Thursday by announcing that Messi would be leaving this summer, citing “financial and structural obstacles” in concluding a new deal with the star.

Messi has been out of contract since the end of June and wanted to pen a new deal with Barcelona, but the cash-strapped Spanish club were unable to do so while remaining within La Liga finance regulations.

Also on rt.com BARCELONA BOMBSHELL: Spanish giants announce Lionel Messi will LEAVE this summer because of ‘financial obstacles’

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Laporta said that Barcelona would be “eternally grateful” to Messi but that fans should not expect to see him in the famous Blaugrana colors again.  

“The club is over 100 years old and is above everyone and everything, even above the best player in the world, the best player who has been with us for the past few years," said Laporta. 

"We’ll always thank him for everything he has done for us.”

Messi leaves Barcelona as the club’s all-time top scorer with 672 goals in a record 778 appearances. The Argentine has won 34 major titles with the club he joined as a 13-year-old, becoming a six-time Ballon d’Or winner in the process.

“Leo’s made history,” Laporta added. “He’s the player with the most success in the history of the club. He’s been the reference of the best era in Barcelona’s history.

“A new era starts now, there will be a ‘before’ and ‘after’ Leo, as there was with other great players in the history of Barca…

"Leo Messi has given us lots of joy, lots of sporting success, lots of images that will go down in history, and we need to be eternally thankful to him.”

After the announcement on Thursday, some of the Barcelona faithful had clung to the hope that the news of Messi’s departure was merely a ploy to pile pressure on La Liga boss Javier Tebas in a bid to force him to be flexible with salary-cap rules.

The Catalans are said to be mired in more than €1 billion ($1.18 billion) worth of debt, and Laporta revealed on Friday that losses this year would be more than €400 million – double what the club had expected.

Also on rt.com ‘All a game’: Fans cling to hope that Barcelona Messi announcement is a PLOY to pressure La Liga bosses into easing finance rules

Messi had been willing to agree to a sizeable pay cut to stay with the club and the 34-year-old star “behaved in an exceptional manner” during negotiations, Laporta said. 

However, he poured cold water on the idea that the announcement of Messi's exit was merely brinkmanship to get La Liga boss Tebas to back down and relax salary restrictions for Barcelona.  

“Leo wanted to stay, so he’s not happy,” said Laporta.

“We all wanted him to stay. But for him right now, it’s a situation that he has to confront reality. It’s a reality that can’t be changed. He knows that I wish him the best wherever he goes, him and his family, and Barca is his home.”

Laporta, who returned as club president earlier this year, pointed the finger firmly at his predecessors in the Barcelona hierarchy for leading the club to the apparent verge of financial ruin.

He explained that with Messi, the Catalans' wage bill would be 110% of their revenue, way above the recommended level of 70% – and that even without the Argentine on the books it would be 95%, meaning work to be done with shifting some players off the books.

“The list of guilty people who are the base of everything is the previous administration's disastrous inheritance,” said Laporta, who replaced the disgraced Josep Maria Bartomeu after he resigned last October.

“It's a situation that we can't change from one day to the other. It's taken us a couple of months to do the audit and we are at the first conclusions involved, we keep finding out new sources in terms of black holes. But let's look forward and with the conclusions of the audit we will have to act.”

Without giving much away, Laporta confirmed that Messi “has other offers” and attention will now turn to where the all-time great ends up next.

French moneymen Paris Saint-Germain are already said to be looking at ways to make a deal happen while remaining within Financial Fair Play (FFP) limits, and reports have claimed Messi has already made “direct contact” with PSG manager and countryman Mauricio Pochettino.

Also on rt.com PSG ‘already in talks about Lionel Messi’ as Argentine star ‘reaches out to Pochettino’ after shock exit from Barcelona

Elsewhere, Manchester City – similarly backed by Middle East petrocash – will be strongly linked with Messi, not least because of his ties with City current manager Pep Guardiola, under whom he enjoyed much of his success at Barcelona.

Complicating that move could be he fact that City have just made a record £100 million ($140 million) outlay for England playmaker Jack Grealish and are said to be keen on wantaway Tottenham star Harry Kane, who would cost even more than that figure.