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Barcelona President Laporta Blames Bartomeu for Club's Heavy Debts, Says Messi Had to Leave

President of FC Barcelona Joan Laporta gestures during a press conference at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on August 16, 2021.
© AFP 2021 / LLUIS GENE

Earlier this month, the club's legendary forward, Lionel Messi, left his team of more than 20 years due to multiple "obstacles" blocking him from renewing the contract with Barca, following numerous reports of him wanting out of the club of his senior professional life due to mismanagement and game losses.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta on Monday has called Lionel Messi's exit "sad but necessary" as the club faces a "dramatic" financial situation, with the club being 1.35 billion euros in debt.

Laporta stated that his administration was forced to seek an 80 million euros loan to pay players as soon as it took over in March, that they have since had to agree to another 550 million euros credit to restructure debts, and that the club is effectively bankrupt, with a net worth of minus 451 million euros.

"We wanted [Messi] to stay, but when we saw the situation the institution is in, and the negotiations, we had to prioritize the club’s interests," he stressed during the press conference.
Laporta went on to blame the previous top management's "dreadful inheritance" from Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom he accused of "lies" and spending "too much and at the speed of light."

He dismissed claims that the pandemic was to blame for Barcelona's crisis, estimating the loss to be roughly 91 million euros, out of a total of 451 million euros this year. The president also rejected that salary inflation was caused by a desire to compete with clubs such as Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, instead blaming overspending following the 222 million euros sale of Neymar to PSG.

Laporta said that his new administration discovered that senior players were put on long contracts while younger players were on short contracts, suspicious payments were being made to intermediaries, TV money was paid in advance, and the stadium was in need of renovation since it had become unsafe for fans.

Player salaries account for 103% of total revenue, according to numbers presented at a press conference on Monday, which Laporta said is "20% to 25% more than our competitors." Then the president announced that he had set pay targets of 65-70%, saying the club needed to save more than 200 million euros, adding that La Liga had set a salary ceiling of just 88 million euros for this season.

All in all, Laporta called the situation "very worrying," noting that the net debt is 553 million euros and the total debt is 1.35 billion euros.

"To the initial €617 million debt you have to add €389 million on players, €90 million in litigation, €79 million in advance television rights and €56 million from the [new stadium] project. In total, €1.35 billion," he said.

Nevertheless, Laporta stated that he was optimistic about reaching an agreement with players on wage reductions or deferrals and that the situation will be stabilized in two years.

"We are not scared. The situation is dramatic, but we have good news: the strategic plan based on our credibility and experience, on the assets that Barca have, makes this situation temporary," Laporta stressed.

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