Joan Laporta has issued a stern ultimatum to Barcelona’s members to vote for him in the upcoming election if they want to see Lionel Messi at the club next season.
The 58-year-old previously held office during a glorious period in the club’s history between 2003-2010 and is one of three candidates vying for the role.
Laporta is up against Victor Font and Antoni Freixa when members cast their votes on March 7.
Messi’s future is likely to have a big influence on the decision of Barcelona’s members, with all three candidates expressing their hope that he remains at the Nou Camp beyond his current contract, which ends in June.
But Laporta has warned there is only one outcome which will convince Messi to stay put.
“I have a great relationship with Leo and he will consider whatever proposal I make,” Laporta said on RAC1 on Tuesday.
“If I don’t win, I am sure that Leo will not stay at Barcelona.
“Messi will weigh up the offer we make him. I’m convinced that if the other candidates win, Messi will not remain at Barcelona. He wasn’t happy during Freixa’s time on the board.”
The future of Barcelona’s captain has been up in the air since last August when Messi slapped in a transfer request.
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He has become increasingly disillusioned at the club, particularly with their failure to launch a serious bid to win the Champions League again – a key factor for the forward, who turns 34 in a few months.
Off-field problems have certainly not helped the situation either.
Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu was among four ex-Barcelona officials arrested on Monday as police swooped on the Nou Camp in a raid on the club’s offices.
Current chief executive Oscar Grau, director of legal services Gomez Ponti, and advisor to the president Jaume Masferrer were the other three officials detained by police.
The raid was in conjunction with the alleged ‘Barcagate’ scandal – a supposed smear campaign club officials are accused of approving to challenge any opposition to Bartomeu’s presidency.
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The campaign was said to have involved the hiring of a third party – a social media company called I3 Ventures – to discredit figures such as Messi who had been critical of Bartomeu.
Barcelona’s perilous financial position is adding more fuel to the fire, with Messi’s staggeringly expensive contract a big problem for Barcelona to navigate if they want to keep him, with Man City and PSG watching on with anticipation.
However, Laporta added: “He’s not guided just by money. He wants a competitive team to win.
“I’m sure he’ll listen to my offer, just as I am [sure] that if someone else wins he will leave.”