Barcelona’s under-fire president Josep Maria Bartomeu launched a counter-attack on his critics on Tuesday by insisting a four-year contract extension for Lionel Messi has been signed by the player’s agent and father, Jorge Horacio Messi.
Barca announced an agreement with the five-time World Player of the Year in July, but Messi himself is yet to put pen to paper amid rumours he is unhappy with the running of the club.
Messi’s current deal expires in 2018 meaning he could leave Barca for free next summer.
“It is all agreed and signed,” said Bartomeu in an interview with Barcelona-based daily Sport.
“There are three contracts: one with Messi’s foundation, that is signed by the president of the foundation and the player’s brother; a contract with Leo Messi’s image rights, that his father and administrator of his company have signed; and the work contract that Leo’s father has signed.”
When pressed on the delay in Messi signing the deal, Bartomeu claimed both the player and club’s hectic start to the season was to blame and that it would be resolved within a month.
“There are no problems. All that is left is the protocol of the signature. We are calm,” he added.
Bartomeu and his board have received fierce criticism for their handling of the recently closed transfer window as Paris Saint-Germain enticed Neymar away from the Catalan giants for a world record €222million ($263.7 million).
A vote of no confidence motion has been launched by former Barca presidential candidate Agusti Benedito that could oust Bartomeu if it receives enough support from the club’s members in the coming weeks.
However, Bartomeu described the loss of the Brazilian as an “opportunity” for Barca to build their team around the midfield rather than a superstar front three of Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez.
“The trident was very good but it had its consequences. It is an opportunity to return to the collective football in the middle of the field, which traditionally was Barca’s strength.
“It is an opportunity, with a new coach, a new project. We need to stop being pessimistic!”
Neymar’s departure sparked a haphazard shopping spree from Barca, who landed 20-year-old French winger Ousmane Dembele for an initial €105million fee from Borussia Dortmund and Paulinho for €40million from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.
However, Barca missed out on a host of other targets, including Liverpool’s Philippe Coutinho, blaming the rampant inflation in the transfer market caused by PSG and Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City.
La Liga has asked UEFA to investigate both PSG and City for breaches of financial fair play rules.
“Qatar and Abu Dhabi are two countries that have two clubs,” added Bartomeu.
“If Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Real Madrid or Arsenal buy a player from you, you know (the money) comes from football.
“But these two clubs distort the market.”
Provided by AFP Sport
A leading Barcelona board member claimed Liverpool set an asking price of €200million ($238 million) for midfielder Philippe Coutinho as the Catalan giants criticised the rampant inflation in the football transfer market on Saturday.
Albert Soler, Barca’s director of institutional relations, said the club’s under-fire board would not put the future of the institution at risk by bending to excessive demands.
“Liverpool put a price of €200million on a player that we wanted,” Soler told reporters at a press conference held to explain Barca’s haphazard signing policy this summer.
Barca ended the window making a slight profit on transfers after receiving a world record €222million from Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain.
Despite splashing over €190million on five signings, most notably €105million on 20-year-old French winger Ousmane Dembele, Soler claimed Barca wouldn’t been drawn into an arms race with the cash-rich Premier League and Qatar-backed PSG.
“We didn’t want to put at risk the heritage of the club. This is a club of 150,000 members and has to be managed with coherence and responsiblity,” added Soler.
“We won’t get involved in the game of a market that has lost its way.
“This board won’t put the club at risk. UEFA and the European Clubs Association (ECA) have to reflect and make a decision.”
UEFA announced on Friday that PSG will be investigated for a potential breach of financial fair play (FFP) rules after adding Kylian Mbappe to the capture of Neymar from Monaco in a deal that could rise to €180million.
Soler dismissed claims that Barca’s status as one of the world’s leading clubs is being threatened by their inability or unwillingness to match the lavish spending of other clubs.
“We haven’t lost any international status for having common sense and not putting the financial viability of the club at risk.”
Barca also insist that five-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi will soon sign a new contract, tying him to the club until 2021.
The club announced the agreement of the deal with Messi, 30, on July 5, but the Argentine has yet to formally put pen to paper.
“I want to send a message of calm to the members. There is no problem,” added Soler over the delay.
“When the club announced an agreement it is validated by both parties.
“All that is lacking is the protocol.”
FC Barcelona’s latest signing Ousmane Dembele from Borussia Dortmund might not have featured in a game yet, but the French international has already been put to the test.
The 20-year-old is certainly not the first Frenchman to play for Barca, and two of his current team-mates, Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne, are France internationals as well.
Dembele was asked if he knows from which clubs ten of Barca’s best known French imports were signed.
The €105m signing didn’t disappoint. He not only passed the test with flying colors but also gave insights into the different French players to have featured for the Catalans.
Watch the below video from FC Barcelona’s official YouTube channel.