Barcelona president, Joan Laporta has revealed that the cause of Lionel Messi leaving the club was a debt of £1.15billion which he blamed on his predecessor Josep Bartomeu.
Laporta gave a two-hour press conference, where he explained the gravity of the financial situation at the Nou Camp and accused Bartomeu of telling lies.
‘As of March 21, 2021, the debt was €1.35bn,’ revealed Laporta. ‘Bartomeu was plugging holes in the short term and mortgaging the club in the long term. That leaves us a dramatic inheritance.’
Messi left on a free transfer for Paris Saint-Germain last week after the club, player and La Liga were unable to come to an agreement with the club explaining that “financial and structural obstacles” meant the deal could not be completed, meaning Messi left as a free agent.
Laporta said: ‘Bartomeu’s letter is an effort to justify management that is unjustifiable. It is an exercise in desperation. I have read the letter carefully and it is full of lies.
‘They are responsible for everything until March 7. They will not escape their doing.’
The club’s captain and defender, Gerard Pique accepted a pay cut to allow new signings Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia to play in Barca’s 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday, with Laporta saying that wages represent 103 per cent of the club’s income.
But the club president does believe the situation is reversible after securing a loan of £470m at an interest rate of 1.1 per cent.
‘The situation is dramatic, but we have good news,’ he said. ‘The strategic plan based on our credibility and experience, on the assets that Barca have, makes this situation temporary.
I think that in a couple of years, the club’s economy will be healthy.
‘We are not scared at all. We are highly motivated and positive and morale is high. It’s a big challenge but we are capable of overcoming it.’
Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba, and Sergio Busquets are expected to follow suit with Pique and accept a pay-cut to help the club.
Laporta said Pique’s move was ‘admirable’ and that Sergio Aguero’s registration issue is not yet resolved, while admitting that the squad will have to take another pay cut having already done so at the height of Covid.
‘We are happy to have resolved with Pique the issue (of registering new signings),’ he said via Dermot Corrigan. ‘To reduce salary is very admirable.
‘In Kun’s case it is not yet resolved, but we expect other captains to act like Pique.
‘The squad already reduced salaries due to COVID. Now we ask for a second effort, first response is surprise as nobody likes to lower their salary.
‘But given the situation they are starting to understand and we trust we can resolve it as soon as possible with captains, then other players.’
Laporta also took aim at Bartomeu once again, after the former president claimed in a letter that Barcelona’s economic crisis is the fault of the current chief.
The 59-year-old said of Bartomeu’s claims, as reported by The Spanish Football Podcast: ‘Full of lies. An effort to justify unjustifiable management. An exercise in desperation.’
Despite the concerning financial update, Laporta remains positive that the club will ‘come through this’ with a viable strategy in place to survive the crisis.
‘The situation is dramatic, but we have good news,’ he said. ‘Our strategic plan, and the experience we all have, gives us credibility. I am convinced that we will come through this.’
Reports in Spain last week also revealed that Barcelona still owe Messi £33m in loyalty bonuses, despite the Argentine joining PSG.