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International

Barcelona President: Keeping Messi Was a “Risky” Investment

MADRID — Keeping Lionel Messi would be risky for Barcelona and not even the greatest player in the world was worth jeopardizing the club's future, president Joan Laporta said Friday.

Laporta blamed Barcelona's previous administration for the club's dire financial situation, which kept it from fitting Messi's new contract within the Spanish league's fair play regulations.

He said he hoped the league would have been more flexible with its rules but understood that it couldn't make an exception even if that meant losing Messi.

"There are objective reasons regarding the economical situation at the club and an investment of that volume with the contract of Messi was risky," Laporta said. "We wanted to assume those risks, but when we realized the real situation of the club after the audit, it meant that we would have put the club in great risk."

He said Messi and the club did everything possible to make the contract work but it wasn't possible without hurting Barcelona's finances. 

"After all of this negotiation process, there comes a moment where you need to say 'enough,'" Laporta said. "You need to analyze rigorously with a cold head and look at the numbers. And in the Spanish league we have to abide by the rules. We think they could be more flexible, but that's not an excuse, we knew the regulation. We couldn't abide by it because of the inheritance we had."

Laporta said new funding recently secured by the league would have helped but the club was against the deal because it would have hurt the team's broadcasting rights revenues for the next 50 years.

"We think Barcelona is above all," Laporta said. "The club is over 100 years old and is above everyone, even above the best player in the world. The club goes over players, coaches, presidents."

The club announced on Thursday that Messi would not remain with the club.

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