Barcelona icon Joan Laporta outlines plans to retain Lionel Messi and admits he hopes Pep Guardiola ‘returns one day’ as former club president prepares to stand for election once again
- Joan Laporta is bidding to return as the president of Barcelona football club
- Laporta was the man who oversaw the promotion of Pep Guardiola to manager
- Under Guardiola Messi became the talisman and Barca won countless trophies
- Laporta has outlined plans to retain Messi but says back up plans must be made
The Barcelona president who made Pep Guardiola coach and oversaw the most prolific period in the club’s history presented his campaign to lead the club for a second time in a press conference on Monday and made keeping Lionel Messi his priority.
Joan Laporta promised if he won the January 24 elections he would sit down with Messi and try to persuade him to stay at the club although he admitted the club would need a plan B if the 33-year-old’s mind could not be changed.
‘Messi loves Barça, nobody can doubt that,’ said Laporta. ‘We have a relationship of respect and affection. The best thing for him is to wait to see who wins the election and then see what they propose. I think if he receives a good proposal he will stay.
Joan Laporta (left) is bidding to return to Barcelona and is desperate for Lionel Messi to stay
‘Everyone will believe they can convince Messi to stay. We have to get the Masia [youth academy] back. It works well but we need to introduce a greater level of professionalism.
‘It would be great to go on having the leadership of Messi on the pitch. We know he can’t go on forever but he still has some years left playing at the highest level. We hope that is the way it works out and if not, that we have alternative plans.’
Laporta said he had not spoken to Guardiola who he hired as first team coach in 2008. He congratulated him on his new contract at Manchester City but did not rule out trying to bring him back to the club at some point in the future.
Laporta oversaw one of the most successful eras in the history of Barcelona
Pep Guardiola was promoted to manager under Laporta and the silverware began to flow
He said: ‘[Pep] is a friend and if he has taken that decision [to stay at Manchester City] and he is happy then congratulations. Like all Barça fans I hope he returns one day. And if I win perhaps one day I can achieve that.’
Laporta said he had not spoken to Guardiola or Txiki Begiristain. ‘They are good friends,’ he added. ‘I can ask them for advice and they will give it to me.’
Laporta began by stressing his role in making both Guardiola and Messi such important figures at the club when he was last president between 2003 and 2010. He said: ‘When I decided that Pep Guardiola would be the coach of the new project [in 2008] I went to Leo Messi’s house and I explained to him and his father that there was a new project and who the new coach and players would be. I told him that he should be the leader of that new project and that he should wear the number 10 shirt [he had previously worn the number 19].
‘I think he was conscious of needing a good team around him. From then on Barça played some spectacular football.’
Messi will have already been a free agent for 24 days before Barcelona elect the next president of the club. Any new offer then made to the player is likely to be a long way short of his current deal because of the new financial situation of the club.
Laporta said: ‘I think Leo will be the first to understand the club’s situation and he would allow margin for that.
‘It’s true that Messi wanted to leave this summer because he was very upset with the way he had been treated but I’m not going to get involved in that.
This summer Messi went public with his desire to finally walk away from Barca
‘Messi loves Barça and I’m sure he will give the club the opportunity. For the respect and the love that he has for the club. We will have a conversation to decide the best for him and Barcelona. I know he will give us that.
‘I know he has offers from other clubs but he has always had offers from other clubs. [Massimo] Moratti would have paid 250m euros in 2006 but I said no. He said no because of his affection for Barça.
‘For Messi it is not just a question of money. We have to be at his level as a club. We have to treat the players like family. If we had had elections earlier then perhaps it would not have come to this.
‘No one can doubt that Messi loves Barça. We respect one another but I have not spoken to him because it is not the right thing to do right now. When the elections are over if I have been chosen by the members I will talk to him.’
Asked about who his coach would be Laporta said: ‘Ronald Koeman deserves respect. He is a Barça great and he has time on his side because of his contract and we have to hope that he does well. He has not had an easy role so far. He is our coach.’
He said he had not spoken to Xavi about his project but added: ‘I have a lot of time for Xavi. He was a player when I was president and he is one of those who should be a reference for the club in terms of the way it looks at its youth system. He knows a lot about football. He wants to keep his focus on football and I’m sure one day he will be able to realise that wish at Barça.’
Laporta batted away questions about the possibility of pursuing the signings of Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland. He said: ‘Talking about signings would be a lack of respect to the players we have right now. The best thing is not to upset the stability of the first team even if we have plans.’
Laporta joins, Victor Font, Jordi Farre, Toni Freixa, Emili Rousaud, Xavi Vilajoana, Lluis Fernandez Ala and Pere Riera as electoral candidates.
To be on the ballot paper they must now obtain 2,257 signatures to support their campaign and raise a deposit of around 125 million euros (15 percent of the club’s 828m budget for the 2020-21 season).
On the financial situation of the club he added: ‘When the pandemic passes and supporters return to the stadium and ticketing and merchandising return to normal things will improve but not all [the problems] have arisen from the coronavirus, before that the correct decisions were not being made.’