The last year was supposed to be the craziest in football history, with all the COVID-related worries and massive disruptions to the global game. 2021 was supposed to be a “normal” year with football and the return of fans. Then August happened. Barely five days into the month, Lionel Messi, the man, the myth, the legend himself and Barcelona have finally parted ways, Joan Laporta confirmed.
Thank you, Leo. pic.twitter.com/cdS9xWe8Me
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) August 5, 2021
After months of intense speculation and tense negotiations which were always said to be progressing well, yesterday’s bombshell confirms the inevitable now. The club’s president Joan Laporta held a press conference today to explain the rationale behind this historic decision and why it had to be done regrettably. FootTheBall presents the five key takeaways from Laporta’s speech.
IT WAS PROGRESSING WELL…AND THEN IT WAS NOT
Laporta stressed what he has been telling us all along- the contract negotiations between player and club were not an issue. Messi had agreed to a new contract for five years with a 50% pay cut in order to help the Blaugrana out through its tough financial situation. There were concerns with the delay in registering the player but the club always maintained that they were having talks regularly with La Liga and hoped to get it done soon.
🎙| Joan Laporta: “Messi’s case is still not completely resolved, but it’s progressing well. He wants to continue at Barça. There is a good chance that Messi will be a part of the squad for the Joan Gamper trophy on the 8th of August.” pic.twitter.com/lCSJfIpZof
— BarçaTimes (@BarcaTimes) August 2, 2021
Some observers were a little concerned that it was taking so long and though there were no major indications of things going wrong, Javier Tebas, president of La Liga had always stated that Barcelona have to reduce their wage bill imminently. The finances of Barcelona were in extremely poor condition ever since the pandemic struck.
Messi leaving Barcelona would be damaging for the value of La Liga which is trying to sell 10% of commercial rights to CVC private equity firm for €2.7bn
Barca clear Messi wanted to stay but the league wouldn’t let them finance the deal.
Liga already blocked Barca & Super Lge
— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) August 5, 2021
Laporta spoke about how he was hopeful that there would come a middle stage in talks and that Messi will eventually become a Barcelona player once again. There was added hope that with the arrival of a new television rights deal, the money will be enough to register Messi. But about that…
THE DREAM OF EUROPEAN SUPER LEAGUE
Last week, the three clubs who remain the three main backers of the ESL- Real Madrid, Barcelona and Juventus, welcomed the decision of a Madrid court that stopped UEFA from punishing these teams. This week, La Liga struck a deal with CVC Capital Ventures to sell a 10% stake for $3.2bn spread out over 50 years.
BIG news for Spanish football: According to our sources La Liga has agreed to sell a 10 percent stake to CVC Capital Partners for $3 billion – The deal needs to be ratified by majority of clubs. (Barca and Real could be holdouts) https://t.co/8RSlDv1URz
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) August 4, 2021
The clubs would have got most of the money with the Blaugrana receiving $320 million, 15% of which could have been used for signing players. This would have certainly made it possible to register Messi and the other new players. However, with Real Madrid slamming the CVC deal recently, Laporta explained today that he was not going to “mortgage television rights for half a century.”
Extremely punchy statement from Real Madrid, expressing opposition to the $3bn deal between La Liga and CVC
Claims agreement uses a “deceptive structure” to hand CVC 10.95% of TV rights for 50 yearshttps://t.co/AF52MmnVc6
— tariq panja (@tariqpanja) August 5, 2021
This very clearly indicates that Laporta is totally unwilling to give way to Tebas’ machinations which would have shut down the dreams of a Super League in future. He categorically stated that “renewing Messi carried certain risks” which he does not want to put the club in. The club is above all for Laporta and the European Super League is alive if the Blaugrana decide they will not back the CVC-La Liga deal.
NO LOVE LOST BETWEEN TEBAS AND LAPORTA
Laporta was very clear as to what was the biggest obstacle in re-signing Messi- the Financial Fair Play of La Liga and the stubbornness of Tebas. Laporta said that with Messi, the sports payroll of the club is “110% of the club’s income.” There was no room left for flexibility as Tebas had steadfastly denied giving Barcelona “even a millimetre” when it came to registering Messi.
Javier Tebas won't budge. https://t.co/9zeDHq1lLU
— MARCA in English (@MARCAinENGLISH) August 3, 2021
Despite other clubs in the league demanding that Messi stays due to the vast audience and sponsorships he commands, Tebas was not impressed. Though Laporta agreed that it was “logical” for La Liga to ask for compliance, the manner in which these negotiations ended was not anybody’s best choice.
Hola @JoanLaportaFCB , sabes que la operación de CVC, no hipoteca los derechos de tv del @FCB 50 años, lo que hace es que los mismos tengan más valor para todos los clubes y asi tú los puedas HIPOTECAR a tus BANCOS y resolver la gran deuda.Asi lo entendias hace horas.#Solucion pic.twitter.com/v3OdpC9ziq
— Javier Tebas Medrano (@Tebasjavier) August 6, 2021
Even during the press conference, Tebas tweeted that accepting the CVC deal would not have meant selling the television rights of the club but Laporta fired back stating that he cannot take such a risk and the two parties could not come to a satisfactory understanding of the new money. This will further increase the pressure on Tebas with La Liga losing Neymar, Ronaldo, and Messi within four years. How badly it will affect the finances of the league will be better known in the future.
SALARY CUTS EXPLORED WITH CLUB SUFFERING LOSSES
It was no surprise to hear that the board had tried talking to current players in order to get them to agree to reduce their wages. That was not possible to a large extent given the current contracts. Laporta was scathing in his criticism of the previous board under Josip Bartomeu who had been widely accused of pushing the club to financial ruin.
👍 Piqué already sat down with Laporta a few weeks ago to show his predisposition with the salary cuts, and Barça are grateful with the gesture. Piqué's people say: "He has made a very great effort, he will stop earning a large amount of money." (via @LaVanguardia) pic.twitter.com/z0gS86CWVm
— FCBarcelonaFl (@FCBarcelonaFl) August 4, 2021
Furthermore, Laporta had even considered unilaterally terminating contracts of players but understood the ramifications of a court battle later on. This goes to show how desperate and all-out the club’s efforts were in keeping Messi. With no massive sales to help out, there was little chance that they could have done anything more.
🗣 “I spoke with Jorge Messi and Leo in the last hours… there’s no chance to continue together. We can’t go through because of the financial regulations, very sad but that’s it. New era."
Barcelona are expecting losses of €487m for last season. pic.twitter.com/NBrS1cMDxU
— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) August 6, 2021
Last season’s losses stood at 487 million euros and there would again be “significant losses” this season. Without Messi, the wage bill stands at 95% of the club’s income and there were elaborate debt restructuring plans underway to reduce the amortizations.
NEW ERA OF BARCELONA BEGINS
In Laporta’s own words, “there is life after Leo.” The president was highly appreciative of Messi’s conduct over the whole negotiation period and how it is a great loss to everyone at Barcelona. However, he stated that the remaining players are motivated to win and earn silverware. The new signings will be registered finally and manager Ronald Koeman has the support of the board.
New era for Barcelona begins 💙❤️ pic.twitter.com/3xzS7QNueT
— VBET News (@VBETnews) August 6, 2021
He also stated that the squad is not finalized yet which means there might be some more arrivals or departures before the end of the month. Though the club has denied giving “false hopes” with regards to the changing of the situation, Laporta acknowledged that Messi has had offers from other teams. The negotiations with Messi have concluded and it is time for a new dawn in the history of the Blaugrana.