FC Barcelona – La Liga All three discussed the club’s financial woes
Barcelona‘s March 7 presidential elections could hardly be more important, with the club slipping back into an on-field crisis after an impressive start to the new year.
Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are the three candidates, and with Lionel Messi‘s contract and crippling financial problems hanging over the club, they’ll have their work cut out for them.
All three spoke to the BBC to outline their plans, should their respective campaigns lead them to presidency, and Messi‘s future was one of the topics up for discussion.
“We will make him an offer that is economically interesting,” Laporta said. “I know Messi is not thinking just about money.
“He needs to know Barcelona can offer him the opportunity to play in a side that is competitive enough to be winning tournaments like the Champions League again.
“This is my priority and I will do the very best so we can to continue with the next chapter of the love affair.”
Font, too, is keen for the Argentine to stay put at the Camp Nou.
“For us the relationship with Messi is strategic both in the short and medium term, because we obviously believe keeping Messi is key,” Font said. “Having the best player in the world and the best in history in your team is a gift so we will do everything we can to retain him.
“But also from an institutional perspective it is important to find a way to keep this association between us even at the time Messi retires.
“Messi himself has been telling us that these two objectives can be achieved because, despite the events that happened last summer, he has always said he would love to retire at Barcelona and he has even told us what he needs for this to happen, which is a competitive sports project.
“He has even said that in the long term he would like to be associated with the club and he wants to live here in Barcelona with his family, so I believe we have all the ingredients to make it happen. We will have to be creative.”
Freixa is perhaps a little more held back, and will only offer figures that he sees appropriate given the club’s off-field problems.
“Messi is the best player in the history of football and we would be proud for him to stay with us for the rest of his career,” Freixa said. “However, we know that his contract finishes at the end of the season, so we need to be able to offer him the framework of a good deal, a good atmosphere from within the club and a deal that has economic conditions that are sustainable.
“So we would expect to sit down with him and offer him terms that will make him decide to stay with the club for a long time and we are optimistic we will be able to count on him for the future. We believe he realises the situation at the club, so we hope it won’t be difficult to reach an agreement.”
Each of the three candidates refused to give much away regarding possible participation in a European Super League, all saying that they would “need to know more” before offering their opinions.
What was clear, though, was that the Azulgrana are facing a tough time financially and action has to be taken.
“Barcelona, like most clubs in Europe, are going through a difficult time economically,” Laporta said. “Our plan is to work hard to reverse this situation.
“We need to control the expenses, to restructure the debt and to generate new revenues. In football these days there are very big opportunities and we have a team in place that can ensure Barcelona is one of the best-managed clubs in world football.”
Font went even further, admitting that the club were close to being bankrupt.
“Technically we are [on the verge of bankruptcy],” he said. “We owe a lot of money and a big chunk of that is short-term debt. We are at risk of losing that very unique trait, which is the ownership of the club by 150,000 members.
Despite the alarm caused by Font, Freixa is more relaxed about the club’s financial state, saying that he’s seen it all before.
“Barcelona are at a critical point, but it is no different to previous situations we have been through,” Freixa said. “When I joined the board in 2010 under Sandro Rosell, we found a club that had an income of 400 million euros and a debt of 560m euros.
“We overcame that situation and now we will have to do the same. We need to reduce our expenses, especially wages and we have to renegotiate our debt.”