Barcelona president Joan Laporta has revealed the dire situation that the club find themselves in after deciding to allow Lionel Messi to leave on a free transfer.
Barcelona announced on Thursday night that the Argentina superstar would be leaving the Nou Camp, with financial restrictions preventing them from offering him a new contract.
Laporta revealed Messi was even offered a two-year deal and even a five-year contract in a bid to stay within the spending limits.
But the Barca chief has said keeping Messi would have put the club at risk “for the next 50 years”.
Speaking at a press conference to explain Messi’s shock departure, Laporta said: “I’m here to explain the situation we’ve reached with Lionel Messi. First of all, I would like to say the inheritance we’ve received is awful. It’s dreadful.
“We were already at 100 per cent and we don’t have any margin in terms of salary. And the rules and regulations of the Spanish La Liga is regulated by FFP and we don’t have any margin.
“We knew that when we got to the club, but I have to say that when we got tot the club the numbers that were presented to us, those numbers are a lot worse than those exposed initially and those we were working with.
“The losses are a lot more elevated than we had expected and what we’re spending is a lot more than what we expected. The current contracts means we have this salary mass of great magnitude and it allows us no margin. This is all tied to FFP, and as you know in La Liga this doesn’t follow the criteria of cash.
“That’s why we couldn’t fit in the first contract that we’d agreed to with Messi. In order to have that fair play, Barca had to agree to an operation that would affect the club for the next 50 years in terms of television rights and that has meant that when I have to make the decision, I can’t make one that would affect the club for this length of time.
“The club is over a 100 years old and it’s above everyone and everything. Even above the best player in the world. The club comes before players and presidents. But the point I must stress is that there are objective reasons regarding the economical situation of the club. An investment of that volume with the contract of Messi was risky.
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“We wanted to assume that risk, all of us on the board of directors but when we realised the real financial situation of the club after the audit, we realised it would put the club at great risk.”
“The ratio that we have on the salary limit is four to one. So to bring in €25m in salary we had to release €100m euros. That’s a lot of players on a lot of reduction. We’re worked intensely in terms of trying to liberate some of that salary mass with some players… we’ve reached agreements and with others it’s not an easy process.
“It’s not easy. Maybe we’ll have to make other decisions but they’re not a guarantee of being the right solution. It’s an uneasy and risky situation for the club and it all requires time.
“What is true is that with what we were counting on for Leo, the salary mass would’ve been 110 per cent compared to the income of the club and that’s not sustainable. That’s why we will continue to work along these lines. The salary mass has us tied right now.
“There were decisions made in the past which restrict us right now. People ask why could we sign Aguero and Depay – but these are players who’ve come to the club accepting certain conditions in terms of salary and we have to thank them for that.”
Laporta has made it clear that he does not want to generate “false hope” over potentially trying to keep Messi, who is understood to be in deep shock.
“I don’t want to generate false hope. During the course of the negotiations, we’ve known that the player has had other offers.
“There was a time limit, both for us because LA Liga starts shortly and for his representatives because they need time. If Fair Play continues to be rigid, the player also needs some time to see what he’s going to do – to evaluate his situation and look at other options.
“We’ve been at it for two months and we’ve gone through different stages. The first agreement was a two-year contract to be paid in five years and Leo was in agreement with that. He was always present in the negotiations and he tried to make it easy for us.
“When we thought that it would be allowed within the regulations the criteria of cash came into play, which isn’t allowed here like it is in other countries. La Liga had its pressures because other clubs want rules to be abided by. Then we agreed to a five-year contract that was accepted by Leo even though we were all thinking of two more years.
“We were all thinking of two years and then if he wanted more, we would sit and negotiate. We wanted the post-Messi era to start in two years. But the circumstances have meant we’ve had to bring that forward.
“The five-year contract we thought would be allowed by the FFP regulations. But after a technical analysis by the La Liga commission, we found out that this contract wouldn’t be valid within those regulations.
PSG deal on?
“The only way was to accept La Liga’s operation that’s not in Barca’s best interest. We were going to receive some money but we believe that accepting that money but affecting our television rights for the future is something we can’t accept.”
Paris St Germain are confident signing Messi would be profitable in the long run and could sign him within a week, the PA news agency understands.
PSG were understood to initially be of the view that a deal could not be done when the announcement came. However, sources close to the matter say a direct approach from Messi to PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino changed the dynamic.
Overnight the French club undertook a commercial analysis and determined that signing Messi would work within the confines of Financial Fair Play rules.
The personal connection between Messi and fellow Argentinian Pochettino. And the fact the deal is a free transfer are both factors in PSG pursuing the deal.
They believe Messi’s signing would drive up their commercial revenues, both in Europe and in South America.
“I don’t know that – but it is always being said they (PSG) have options.”