Barcelona president Joan Laporta says the cause of Lionel Messi leaving the club was a debt of £1.15billion run up by his predecessor Josep Bartomeu.
Laporta gave a two-hour press conference yesterday in which he outlined the gravity of the financial situation at the Nou Camp and accused Bartomeu of telling lies.
‘As of March 21, 2021, the debt was €1.35bn,’ revealed Laporta. ‘Bartomeu was plugging holes in the short term and mortgaging the club in the long term. That leaves us a dramatic inheritance.’
Joan Laporta has revealed that Barcelona’s debts have now plunged as low as £1.15billion
The Spaniards have lost Lionel Messi as they were financially unable to re-sign him this month
Messi left on a free transfer for Paris Saint-Germain last week after the club, player and La Liga were unable to come to an arrangement to keep him at Barca. Bartomeu — who was replaced by Laporta in March — later released an open letter defending his administration and criticising his successor.
But Laporta said: ‘Bartomeu’s letter is an effort to justify management that is unjustifiable. It is an exercise in desperation. I have read the letter carefully and it is full of lies.
‘They are responsible for everything until March 7. They will not escape their doing.’
Defender Gerard Pique accepted a pay cut to allow new signings Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia to play in Barca’s 4-2 win over Real Sociedad on Sunday, with Laporta saying that wages represent 103 per cent of the club’s income.
But the president does believe the situation is reversible after securing a loan of £470m at an interest rate of 1.1 per cent.
‘The situation is dramatic, but we have good news,’ he said. ‘The strategic plan based on our credibility and experience, on the assets that Barca have, makes this situation temporary.
And Laporta has lifted the lid on the full extent of Barcelona’s alarming economic crisis
‘I think that in a couple of years, the club’s economy will be healthy.
‘We are not scared at all. We are highly motivated and positive and morale is high. It’s a big challenge but we are capable of overcoming it.’
Laporta had earlier revealed that Messi’s new contract would have taken the club’s wage bill to account for 110 per cent of their ann ual revenue, a figure the league would never accept.
Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets are expected to follow suit with Pique and accept a pay-cut to help the club.
Laporta said Pique’s move was ‘admirable’ and that Sergio Aguero’s registration issue is not yet resolved, while admitting that the squad will have to take another pay cut having already done so at the height of Covid.
Laporta said that the squad will need to take another pay cut to help ease the burden
He praised the ‘admirable’ Gerard Pique for already agreeing to a secondary reduction in wage
‘We are happy to have resolved with Pique the issue (of registering new signings),’ he said via Dermot Corrigan. ‘To reduce salary is very admirable.
‘In Kun’s case it is not yet resolved, but we expect other captains to act like Pique.
‘The squad already reduced salaries due to COVID. Now we ask for a second effort, first response is surprise as nobody likes to lower their salary.
‘But given the situation they are starting to understand and we trust we can resolve it as soon as possible with captains, then other players.’
Laporta also took aim at Bartomeu once again, after the former president claimed in a letter that Barcelona’s economic crisis is the fault of the current chief.
Laporta also responded to claims from Josep Bartomeu (rght) that the crisis was his own fault
The 59-year-old said of Bartomeu’s claims, as reported by The Spanish Football Podcast: ‘Full of lies. An effort to justify unjustifiable management. An exercise in desperation.’
Despite the concerning financial update, Laporta remains positive that the club will ‘come through this’ with a viable strategy in place to survive the crisis.
‘The situation is dramatic, but we have good news,’ he said. ‘Our strategic plan, and the experience we all have, gives us credibility. I am convinced that we will come through this.’
Reports in Spain last week also revealed that Barcelona still owe Messi £33m in loyalty bonuses, despite the Argentine joining PSG.
Laporta was the subject of criticism from Barca fans at their first game against Real Sociedad
The bonus – worth a total of £66m – was part of Messi’s old contract and the club had paid the first half of the sum in February and are due to pay the remaining £33m this summer.
Laporta was among those targeted by some fans in the team’s Spanish league opener on Sunday, when they defeated Real Sociedad 4-2.
There were banners outside the Nou Camp criticising Laporta and accusing him of not doing enough to keep Messi.