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08th Oct 2021

Barcelona president hoped Lionel Messi would stay and ‘play for free’

Callum Boyle

Wishful thinking from Laporta

Barcelona president Joan Laporta admitted that he hoped that Lionel Messi would stay with the club and that he would even help them out by “playing for free”.

Messi ended a 17-year association with the Catalan giants this summer after they were unable to renew his contract due to La Liga’s salary limits, despite agreeing to a 50% cut in his wages.

It led to the 34-year-old leaving the Nou Camp to join Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer and during an interview with radio station RAC1, Laporta said he hoped the Argentinian would reverse his decision.

“There was disappointment on both sides, I hoped Messi would do a U-turn and he would say he would play for free,” he said.

“I did hope that at the last minute Messi would say that he would play for free. I would have liked that and he would have convinced me. I understand that the league would have accepted it. But we cannot ask that of a player of his level.

“With Messi I do not get angry because I appreciate him. I know he had a huge desire to stay.”

Laporta did understand though that renewing the six-time Balon D’or winner’s contract was not a feasible option, and that it would have put Barcelona “at risk”.

Whilst they couldn’t secure the signature of their prized asset, the Barca president did hint that contract talks with the next generation of talent at the club were going well.

He said: “The intention is to renew [the contracts of] the young players we have. We are working to renew all youth players. They are responding well and we are in a process of renewal.

“Pedri, we have advanced with very well and hopefully we can take it further. Ansu [Fati] is doing well.”

Barcelona have had a endured start to life post-Lionel Messi so far, with manager Ronald Koeman under pressure, however Laporta and the rest of the board have backed the Dutchman to turn a corner and climb back up the table.

“I asked him if he trusted the team and he said, ‘Of course I trust them. I need to get the injured players back’. He wants to continue at all costs and show this team is competitive.”

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