Barcelona to Ligue 1: French prime minister Manuel Valls offers club a place if Catalonia becomes independent

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The Independent Football

French prime minister Manuel Valls has said he would be willing to offer Barcelona a place in Ligue 1 next season if the club were forced to leave the Spanish league.

The Champions League holders’ La Liga membership is under threat amid the prospect of a referendum on Catalonian independence.

The city of Barcelona is the autonomous region’s capital and if separation from Spain was voted through by Catalonia’s populace, the club would be forced to leave its domestic league competition.

Speaking to French newspaper Journal du Dimanche, longstanding Barcelona supporter Valls offered his team a safe haven, should expulsion ever come to fruition.

"Monaco play in Ligue One, so why not Barcelona?" asked the French head of government. "I'm a huge football fan, a Barça fan. They're in my blood. France knows it and they ask me about it on the streets."

AS Monaco have competed in France’s professional league system since 1933 though their membership has caused some controversy since the club, based in a tax haven, was bought by Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev.

In January 2014, the club paid a sum of €50m for the right to remain in Ligue 1 while exempt from the country's tax laws.

Should Barcelona be expelled from La Liga, the club could compete in a smaller Catalan league alongside the region's other clubs, including Espanyol, Sabadell and Gimnàstic de Tarragona. However, the club are unlikely to follow this route for commercial reasons, previously outlined by Spanish sports minister Miguel Cardenal.

“The sporting aspiration of the Catalan clubs would be different. Barca, for example, would be a team like Ajax, Celtic or Standard Liege and would be doing well to get to the quarter-finals of the Champions League."

Support for the independence movement is strong among Barcelona's hardcore cules fan groups. Pro-Catalan chants are heard in the 17th minute of every home game, commemorating the year 1714, the last time the region had complete autonomy.

Fans of the club were seen displaying their support for pro-Scottish independence campaigners at the time of last year's referendum.

A number of saltires could be spotted flying the stands during the Champions League group stage game against Apoel Nicosia.

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