With a month left on Lionel Messi’s contract, Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta is “moderately optimistic” that the club’s greatest player will stay. “There will be a new contract for Messi but it is not done yet,” Laporta said on Friday in his first news conference since he started his second stint as president.
Laporta also addressed the future of Ronald Koeman, saying the manager had told him he wanted to continue but that “we are in a period of reflection with him to see what we do”. His remarks drew a spiky response from Koeman’s agents at Wasserman in a swiftly deleted tweet: “Imagine: I want to marry you, but I have doubts. Give me two weeks to find a better partner… If I can’t find the right person, we will get married anyway!”
Last summer Messi wanted to leave following a season without a title but was denied an exit. He said in December that he would postpone a decision on his future until the season had ended. Messi’s contract expires on 30 June.
Laporta said he was “moderately optimistic” that he and Messi could reach a deal that “is within the possibilities of the club and acceptable for the player”.
Laporta did not reveal what salary the club can offer Messi, saying Barcelona are still carrying out an internal audit with finances hard hit by €1.2bn (£1m) of debt and €350m losses this season. Laporta said that Barcelona would be able to balance their books in two years, thanks to continued interest from sponsors and investors.
Laporta said Messi wanted a more competitive Barcelona on the field. “Leo surely deserves more and could make more elsewhere, but his desire is to make Barça great,” Laporta said. “I am sure that he appreciates the effort we are making, and I think that he is excited and motivated by the project we are building.
“For Leo, it is not about money, it is about the team and its chances of winning. Leo, above all, wants to feel comfortable, to feel appreciated. And then to win.”
Barcelona finished third in La Liga and were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16. Their only title was the Copa del Rey, leaving the future of Ronald Koeman in doubt. Laporta said that he and the manager in talks to see what course the team should take, but he would not confirm that Koeman will be allowed to finish the year left on his contract.
“My relationship with Koeman is very good,” Laporta said. “This is about making sure we share the same vision and goals. He has told me that he wants to continue. We are in a period of reflection with him to see what we do going forward.”
Koeman’s agents said in further tweets that were not taken down: “The words of FC Barcelona’s president Joan Laporta during a press conference today about @RonaldKoeman’s anxiety attack are overdone. Ronald has been to the hospital for blood pressure checks, a routine check for people with his medical history. We regret the way it got into the media. Ronald is fine, there is nothing to worry about.”