New Barcelona president Laporta launches bid to keep Lionel Messi

New Barcelona president Joan Laporta launches his bid to keep Lionel Messi at the Nou Camp, insisting star man’s decision to vote in the election is ‘a clear sign’ of his love for the club as his contract continues to run down and Man City and PSG circle

  • Joan Laporta was elected the new president of Barcelona on Sunday evening
  • His first big task is to convince star man Lionel Messi to sign a new contract
  • Messi is out of contract this summer and has been linked with Man City and PSG 
  • Laporta beat his two other rivals to succeed Josep Bartomeu in the hot seat
  • Tying Messi down and sorting the club’s financial woes are his priority tasks 

Newly-elected Barcelona president Joan Laporta has immediately turned his attention to convincing Lionel Messi to stay, insisting the fact the Argentine voted on Sunday is a ‘clear sign’ of his love for the club.

Messi’s future was a major issue on the campaign trail and Laporta regularly said that he would be able to convince the club’s main man to stay put if he were to win the election.

Messi wanted to leave the club last summer but his wishes were denied by the previous regime and speculation has since mounted over a free transfer to Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City when his contract expires this summer. 

Joan Laporta celebrates after being elected as Barcelona’s new president on Sunday night

Lionel Messi voted at Barcelona’s presidential elections which could decide his future 

But Laporta, who previously served as president between 2003 and 2010, is now determined to make his promise a reality and tie Messi down to a new contract after winning the election by a huge margin.

Speaking after his victory on Sunday night, Laporta said: ‘Seeing Lionel Messi coming to vote today, seeing him taking part, that is very telling.

‘Twenty years ago [he] made his debut with Barca’s youth team.

‘Seeing the best player in the world come out to vote today is a clear sign of what we keep saying. Leo loves Barca.

‘The best player in the world loves Barca and I hope that is a sign that he will stay at Barcelona, which is what we all want.’

Laporta won a resounding 54.28 per cent of total votes, while rivals Victor Font came second with 29.99 per cent and Toni Freixa was third with 8.58 per cent.

Messi is out of contract this summer and has been linked with Manchester City and PSG

The 58-year-old succeeds Josep Bartomeu, who resigned as president in October to avoid facing a vote of no confidence from members who turned on him after Messi tried to leave the club last August and the team were beaten 8-2 by Bayern Munich.

Messi was among several Barca players to vote in the election a day after winning 2-0 at Osasuna to go second in La Liga.

Barca said 51,765 out of 109,531 eligible members had voted in the election, which was postponed from January due to coronavirus restrictions in Catalonia. A total of 30,184 people voted for Laporta.

Laporta celebrated his victory by singing the club’s anthem with his campaign team and sipping champagne before giving his victory speech, in which he gave a special mention to captain and all-time top scorer Messi, who has less than four months left on his contract with Barca. 

The new president takes over a club with huge financial problems due to the Covid-19 pandemic eliminating ticket revenue and badly hitting merchandising income.

Barca’s last accounts showed a gross debt of more than €1.4billion (£1.2bn) with a net debt of €488million (£420m). The club agreed a temporary player pay-cut last year while it had to delay payments to players in December.

Laporta celebrates remotely with his campaign members after winning by a huge margin

Yet things are looking up on the pitch, with Ronald Koeman’s side winning 13 of their last 16 league games and reaching the Copa del Rey final.

Laporta’s first match in his second spell as president is Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg away to PSG, with Barca trailing 4-1 in the tie.

He added: ‘We’re off to Paris to stage a comeback.’

Laporta was first elected in 2003 and presided over a golden period in the club’s history which witnessed four La Liga titles and two Champions League triumphs.

He ran in the 2015 elections but was emphatically beaten by incumbent Bartomeu.

Bartomeu was arrested last Monday in a Catalan police probe related to allegations of improper management and business corruption which also saw the club’s Camp Nou offices raided.

He has not commented on his arrest and made use of his right not to give a statement in court.  

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