‘Lionel Messi loves Barca’: New Barcelona president Joan Laporta aims to keep ‘best player in the world’

The newly-elected president succeeds Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October with the club in turmoil

<p>Joan Laporta celebrates during a press conference following his victory</p>

Joan Laporta celebrates during a press conference following his victory

Joan Laporta has been elected as Barcelona’s club president with the Catalan club turning to the man who oversaw one of their most successful periods.

Amid an institutional and financial crisis, Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned as president in October to avoid facing a vote of no confidence from members who were disgruntled after Lionel Messi pushed to leave the club last August, while the team were humiliated in an 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

Laporta, who was Barca president between 2003 and 2010, coasted to victory with 54.28% of total votes, defeating other candidates Victor Font, second with 29.99% and Toni Freixa, third with 8.58%.

Messi was among several Barca players to vote in the election a day after winning 2-0 at Osasuna to go second in La Liga.

READ MORE: Sergio Aguero jokes about Lionel Messi move to Man City but can’t confirm his own future

Barca said 51,765 out of 109,531 eligible members had voted in the election, which was postponed from January due to coronavirus restrictions in Catalonia. A total of 30,184 people voted for Laporta.

Laporta celebrated his victory by singing the club’s anthem with his campaign team and sipping champagne before giving his victory speech, in which he gave a special mention to captain and all-time top scorer Messi, who has less than four months left on his contract with Barca.

“Twenty years ago a little boy called Leo Messi made his debut with Barca’s youth team. Seeing the best player in the world come out to vote today is a clear sign of what we keep saying. Leo loves Barca,” Laporta said.

“The best player in the world loves Barca and I hope that is a sign that he will stay at Barcelona, which is what we all want.”

HUGE FINANCIAL PROBLEMS

Laporta takes over a club with huge financial problems due to the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating ticket revenue and badly hitting merchandising income.

Barca’s last accounts showed a gross debt of more than 1.4 billion euros ($1.67 billion) with a net debt of 488 million euros. The club agreed a temporary player pay-cut last year while it had to delay payments to players in December.

Yet things are looking up on the pitch, with Ronald Koeman’s side winning 13 of their last 16 league games and reaching the Copa del Rey final.

Laporta’s first match in his second spell as president is Wednesday’s Champions League last-16 second leg away to Paris St Germain, with Barca trailing 4-1 in the tie.

He added: “We’re off to Paris to stage a comeback.”

Laporta was first elected in 2003 and presided over a golden period in the club’s history which witnessed four La Liga titles and two Champions League triumphs.

He ran in the 2015 elections but was emphatically beaten by incumbent Bartomeu.

Bartomeu was arrested last Monday in a Catalan police probe related to allegations of improper management and business corruption which also saw the club’s Camp Nou offices raided. He has not commented on his arrest and made use of his right not to give a statement in court.

Reuters

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