Bartomeu has ‘no doubt’ Messi will stay at Barcelona

Barcelona (AFP) – Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu repeated on Sunday that he had “no doubt” that Lionel Messi would sign a new contract but added that the coronavirus lockdown had reduced club revenue by 30 percent and would limit transfer activity.

“Messi has said many times that he wants to retire here and I have no doubt that he will re-sign,” said Bartomeu in an interview published by Barcelona’s sports newspaper Mundo Deportivo. 

Messi’s contract expires in June of 2021 and local radio station Cadena Ser reported at the start of July that the Argentine had broken off talks with the club.

Messi has had regular disagreements with the club’s board.

He reacted publicly when sporting director Eric Abidal appeared to blame the players for the sacking of coach Ernesto Valverde in January. 

He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.

Barcelona collapsed after La Liga resumed to drop to second as Real Madrid took the title and the 33-year-old Messi was one of those criticised. 

On another long-running issue, the possibility that Neymar would return from Paris Saint-Germain, Bartomeu said he could only see the Brazilian arriving if the deal involved a player swop.

“Now we are making decisions and the players, if they do not come as part of a player exchange players, it is very difficult for them to come,” Bartomeu said.

He said Barcelona had lost 200 million euros ($233 million) due to the coronavirus lockdown, which started in March, and will fall short of the target of 1,100 million euros under a five-year plan to next season. He estimated the club would fall 30 per cent short.

“Since March 14 we have hardly received one euro,” said Bartomeu. “We have had to close the shops and the museum, there have been no ticket sales. We returned the part of season tickets for the matches that were not played.” 

He said that they were able to limit the damage because players accepted pay cuts and exploiting temporary rules allowing it to cut pay to employees.

“If anyone thinks that the pandemic does not affect Barca they are wrong. It affects the big European clubs. And Barca, which is the European club that makes most money, is the most affected,” Bartomeu said. “Despite the reductions we will continue to be the leaders in revenue.”

Bartomeu said another priority was persuading German goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, whose contract expires in 2022, to sign a new deal “not only for his quality as a  goalkeeper but for his personality”.

“He’s a pillar of the dressing room and of the future,” said Bartomeu. “At 28 he’s one of the three best in the world.” 

He said he was less concerned about Uruguayan Luis Suarez, who is a free agent next year because “depending on the number of games he plays, the contract automatically renews for the 2021-22 season”. 

Bartomeu also said talks with Inter Milan over Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez were “at a standstill”.

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