Football: Barcelona president says club's finances in worse shape than thought

FC Barcelona has been trying to reduce its wage bill to stay within La Liga's strict financial control rules. PHOTO: AFP

BARCELONA (REUTERS) - FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Friday (Aug 6) that a recent audit had shown the club's finances were in worse shape than previously thought.

"We cannot put the institution at greater risk," he told a news conference held to discuss the departure of star player Lionel Messi.

Since Laporta took over as Barca president, the club has been trying to reduce its wage bill to stay within La Liga's strict financial control rules.

La Liga had said last month that Barcelona, which has a total debt of more than 1 billion euros (S$1.59 billion), would not be shown any leniency.

Laporta said earlier on Friday that the club was unable to re-sign Messi as it had no margin to pay more under La Liga's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.

He said the club and Messi had both wanted to sign a new contract, but salaries already represent 110 per cent of the club's earnings, meaning it is spending much more than expected and such a move would be financially risky.

"The club is above everything - even above the best player in the world," Laporta told a news conference.

Laporta said that the club had agreed two deals with Messi, firstly a two-year deal made payable over five, and then a five-year deal.

However, they were unable to get the deal done because of La Liga's FFP rules.

The Barca chief also said that the financial situation that he had inherited from former club president Josep Maria Bartomeu was "far, far worse" than anticipated.

"I said we'd do everything possible to keep Messi at Barca within the economic situation of club," he said.

"We reached agreement but couldn't formalise it, because of the club's economic situation, which means we can't register the player due to salary limits. I don't want to go on and on about the situation we inherited, and the awful decisions that were made in the past. We have gone from bad to worse."

Reacting to the news, Manchester City's manager Pep Guardiola says Messi is not in the English Premier League champions' sights now that the star Argentina striker is leaving, but they would be interested in Tottenham Hotspur's Harry Kane.

He was speaking a day after City completed the signing of midfielder Jack Grealish from Aston Villa for a Premier League record 100 million pounds (S$188 million).

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He said the Grealish deal came off because City had made almost 60 million pounds from the sale and loan of young players and could activate a release clause in his contract.

"When you sell for 60 million, you can afford 100 million. Otherwise it could not have been possible," said the Spaniard.

He confirmed City's interest in signing England captain Kane but said nothing could happen without Tottenham's agreement.

"He plays for Tottenham Hotspur and if Tottenham don't want to negotiate, it's finished," he said.

"If they are open to negotiate, of course many clubs in the world would want to try and sign him. We are not an exception."

Paris Saint-Germain manager Mauricio Pochettino, meanwhile, told reporters on Friday that Messi is an "option" that is being evaluated by the French football giants.

The Argentinian said he could not say more than what had already been said in public on the matter.

Pochettino, whose club is owned by Qatar Sports Investments, told a news conference that PSG's directors always worked hard to improve the team in any way they could.

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