Barcelona presidential hopeful Joan Laporta has made a bold claim to voters in the club’s upcoming election that Lionel Messi will leave Camp Nou unless he returns to office, seemingly in a desperate late attempt to play on members’ fears of losing the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and is yet to decide whether he will sign a new contract or join a new club as a free agent. The 33-year-old tried to leave last summer but was blocked by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
Laporta, who previously served as president from 2003 to 2010, has now claimed that voting for either of the other candidates – Victor Font or Toni Freixa – will push Messi out of the door.
“I have a great relationship with Leo and he will consider whatever proposal I make. If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona,” he insisted in comments published by Marca.
“Messi will weigh up the offer we make him I’m convinced that if the other candidates win, Messi will not remain at Barcelona. He wasn’t happy during Freixa’s time on the board.
“He’s not guided just by money. He wants a competitive team to win. I’m sure he’ll listen to my offer, just as I am [sure] that if someone else wins he will leave.”
Messi himself has previously explained that he will not make his decision until the end of the season, nor will he speak to any potential suitor unless he opts to leave.
“I’m not thinking too far ahead in the short term and just want to see how the season finishes. I will not negotiate with other clubs. I will wait for the season to end and in June I will decide,” he told La Sexta in January, with reports since revealing he is holding firm on that promise.
Messi also has not spoken, nor has he endorsed, any of the presidential candidates.