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Joan Laporta’s press conference: Messi’s departure, club’s financial woes, and the road ahead

Joan Laporta speaking to the press at 1899 Auditorium today (Pau Barrena/AFP)

FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta appeared in a press conference for the first time after the club’s announcement of Lionel Messi’s departure. Laporta answered queries related to Messi’s departure, Barcelona’s financial condition, and the road ahead for Barcelona.

In what was perhaps one of the most awaited press conferences in recent times, Joan Laporta appeared to explain the financial obligations that eventually made the club part ways with Messi.

While the majority of it was related to La Liga’s salary cap, Laporta also revealed the club’s financial situation: an estimated loss of 487 million euros in the last season alone. He explained it all in the hour-long conference, and here are excerpts that you should not miss out on:

On the whole saga and the nuances behind it

“First of all, I would like to say that unfortunately, we have received a disastrous inheritance. That has made the club, the salary mass, represent 110% of the income of the club. We have no salary margin. La Liga’s rules go through a financial fair play that sets limitations.”

“When we arrived at the club, after the first conclusions of the audit and the closing of the season, the numbers seemed better. But they are much worse than expected. The expected losses are much higher than the expected debt. That means that with the current contracts, we have this huge wage bill. We will give details and inform the members of the conclusions of the audit. They are the conclusions that have led us to make the closing that we have made, which will reveal the reality of the club in terms of losses and indebtedness.” 

 “It is true that the real situation of the club as a result of the inheritance received has influenced when putting everything in the balance and making the decision regarding Messi. We will make the presentation to the media prior to the assembly to explain all the numbers. Our CEO will explain it in detail. But there is a relatively close horizon in which this situation will have been reversed, but right now the reality is different.”

“Many things had to be made compatible. The issue of ‘fair play,’ and to do it in a certain time because the player has other proposals. A point came up where you had to stand up, leave your emotions out, analyze them with rigor and serenity that the numbers bring. We think that it should have been more flexible, but it is not an excuse because we knew the norm.”

On La Liga’s policy with respect to Messi’s contract

“From La Liga, we had been hinted quite convincingly that the five-year contract could enter. But after analysis they let us know that this contract couldn’t be registered, and that triggered everything. They were conditioned to take the registration only if we agreed to mortgage the club. To get an idea, our salary limit ratio is 4-1. To enter €25 million in salary we had to free up €100m. That is a lot of reduction. The sports management is working hard to free this wage bill.” 

“I can’t tell you the exact percentage of the salary mass without Leo. What I do know is that it exceeds 110% of the club’s income with him. What I can say is we still exceed the recommended figures of 65%-75% without Leo Messi. We have no margin with/without Leo” 

On possibilites of re-signing Messi if La Liga re-consider the rules

 “They are all hypotheses. Today they are not real. I would have liked to appear here with Leo next to me and announce that he’d continue playing for us. It was a dream of all the Catalans. But you have to live from realities. That is what happens. Of course, I can imagine many things that I would like to see happen, but that’s the way it is.” 

Regarding negotiations on other players’ contracts

 “We have been able to reach agreements but with the others, we work with, it is not easy at all. Contracts in force, players who have already lowered their salary, have already restructured it, and it is not easy. We have to adopt other measures but they are not a guarantee that the resolutions will be favorable either. We are in a swampy terrain with many risks for the entity with something extremely unsustainable.”

On the registration of new signings

 “According to our calculations, will be able to register all the signings this season. Leo Messi’s deserved salary in terms of magnitude is not the same as that of the four players we have signed, whom I want to thank for their gesture.” 

Regarding the players’ and Ronald Koeman’s reactions

“The players played with him for so long, but this is their chance to lead Barça without him. We have talented players who want to prove that they are professionals and what it means to be a Barca player. They have to ensure that there is a very strong team spirit. That the captains have to lead this, that they have to integrate the young players who are reaching an extraodinary level. They will have the absolute motivation and the maximum support of the club.”

“I talked to Koeman yesterday and today. He is a professional, he is able to adapt to the new situation. It will be difficult to replace a player like Messi, but he is ready for the challenge.”

On Lionel Messi and his legacy at Barcelona

“Leo leaves with an excellent legacy. He has made history. He has been the player with the most accumulated successes in the history of the club. He leaves a mark. He has been the reference for a splendid stage in the history of Barça. It has been the best. Now it begins a new era and there is a before and after for Leo.” 

“Like Samitier, Kubala, Johan. Messi is a reference within this axis. He has left many joys, a collective illusion with many sporting successes, images for history. He has shown his esteem for Barça, his willingness to stay in Barcelona. If you allow me a personal assessment, I am sad, but we have done the best for the club. We wanted the post-Messi era to start in two years, not today. Given the circumstances, everything has been advanced. We all wanted to enjoy his magic, but it can’t be.”

Regarding plans for Lionel Messi’s farewell

 “The tribute to Messi will be whatever he wants. We would do it every day for everything he has given. We know about the health and economic circumstances, and that makes it difficult. I hope to see the tribute that he deserves one day. I would have liked to see him at Barça. What he does now is his decision, I won’t get involved.”

On Jorge Messi and the last minutes of negotiation

“Leo wanted to stay and he’s not happy. He faces reality as we do now. You can’t change reality. I think he and his family know that I wish them the best where they are. Barça is his home, Leo has grown great to the club like no one.” 

 “Jorge Messi has had a very correct attitude in all negotiations. They have never asked us for anything that does not fall within the logic of a negotiation. I spoke with Jorge Messi and Leo in the last few hours… there’s no chance to continue together. We can’t go through because of the financial regulations, very sad but that’s it.”