Madrid (AFP) – La Liga president Javier Tebas has said he was never seriously worried about the impact on the league if Lionel Messi had left Barcelona this summer.
Messi admitted defeat on Friday in his attempt to find a way out of Barca, insisting the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu had “broken his word” over an exit clause in his contract.
La Liga had previously intervened in the dispute by announcing Messi’s 700-million-euro release clause still applied, a statement later rejected by Messi’s agent and father Jorge.
Asked on Monday if Messi’s departure had been a serious worry for him, Tebas said: “A serious worry, no. A worry, yes.
“We always want Leo to be with us, I’ve said many times he is the best player in history and as president of La Liga I would like him to finish his career in this competition.
“La Liga has been working for quite a few years to ensure that as a brand it is above individual players and clubs so the value is not affected by one or two players.
“But there was some worry because after 20 years with us, you want him to be here and not in another league.”
Tebas also said Messi’s departure would not have affected La Liga’s income from broadcast rights deals. “I don’t think so because we have already sold 90 per cent of the rights for the next four seasons, so I don’t think the departure of Messi would affect that issue,” he said.
– New season beckons –
The 2020/21 La Liga season begins on Friday, with Granada against Athletic Bilbao.
But last year’s top four, including reigning champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are all sitting out the opening weekend.
They have been given longer to recover after their involvement in last season’s European competitions.
Matches will still be without fans as Spain wrestles with a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.
La Liga had hoped stadiums would be able to take a small percentage of their capacity in September but those plans have been shelved.
“It is a difficult question because it’s not up to La Liga,” said Tebas. “I believe that to see stadiums like before it can only happen with a vaccine.
“I hope it can be in January or February. Several governments have already announced it and that would be the beginning of the end of this bad dream.”
The pandemic has had a huge impact on La Liga’s clubs, with many suffering considerable financial losses from the lack of matchday income.
Some of the biggest clubs have been the worst affected, with Madrid yet to sign a new player this summer while Barcelona are desperately trying to offload their most expensive assets.
Several teams have also had to quarantine players who tested positive upon returning for pre-season.
“It will be a season of surprises,” predicted Tebas. “The big clubs are suffering the consequences of the crisis while the not so big ones, who depend more on television income, can make better signings and make the league more equal. It will be very interesting.”
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