Messi deal 'signed' by father, claims Bartomeu

AFP
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has reassured his club's supporters that Lionel Messi's new contract has been signed, albeit by the Argentina player's father.
AFP
Reuters

Barcelona teammates, Argentina's Lionel Messi and Uruguay's Luis Suarez, walk off the field at the end of their 2018 World Cup qualifier at the Centenario Stadium in Montevideo, Uruguay, on August 31, 2017.

Barcelona's under-fire president Josep Maria Bartomeu launched a counter-attack on his critics on Tuesday by insisting a four-year contract extension for Lionel Messi has been signed by the player's agent and father, Jorge Horacio Messi.

Barca announced an agreement with the five-time World Player of the Year in July, but Messi himself is yet to put pen to paper amid rumors he is unhappy with the running of the club.

Messi's current deal expires in 2018 meaning he could leave Barcelona for free next summer.

"It is all agreed and signed," said Bartomeu in an interview with Barcelona-based daily Sport.

"There are three contracts: one with Messi's foundation, that is signed by the president of the foundation and the player's brother; a contract with Leo Messi's image rights, that his father and administrator of his company have signed; and the work contract that Leo's father has signed."

When pressed on the delay in Messi signing the deal, Bartomeu claimed both the player and club's hectic start to the season was to blame and that it would be resolved within a month.

"There are no problems. All that is left is the protocol of the signature. We are calm," he added.

Bartomeu and his board have received fierce criticism for their handling of the recently closed transfer window as Paris Saint-Germain enticed Neymar away from the Catalan giant for a world-record 222 million euros (US$263.7 million).

A vote of no confidence motion has been launched by former Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito that could oust Bartomeu if it receives enough support from the club's members in the coming weeks.

However, Bartomeu described the loss of the Brazilian as an "opportunity" for the club to build its team around the midfield rather than a superstar front three of Neymar, Messi and Luis Suarez.

"The trident was very good but it had its consequences. It is an opportunity to return to the collective football in the middle of the field, which traditionally was Barca's strength.

"It is an opportunity, with a new coach, a new project. We need to stop being pessimistic!"

Haphazard shopping spree

Neymar's departure sparked a haphazard shopping spree from Barcelona, which landed 20-year-old French winger Ousmane Dembele for an initial 105-million euro fee from Borussia Dortmund and Paulinho for 40 million euros from Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande.

However, Barcelona missed out on a host of other targets, including Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho, blaming the rampant inflation in the transfer market caused by PSG and Abu Dhabi-backed Manchester City.

La Liga has asked UEFA to investigate both PSG and City for breaches of financial fair play rules.

"Qatar and Abu Dhabi are two countries that have two clubs," added Bartomeu.

"If Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Real Madrid or Arsenal buy a player from you, you know (the money) comes from football.

"But these two clubs distort the market."

Bartomeu also spoke about Andres Iniesta's new contract, with Barcelona's veteran playmaker on a deal which also expires at the end of the season.

"We have the basis of a deal to renew and we hope to seal it in the coming weeks," Bartomeu told Mundo Deportivo.

"The idea is that he has an indefinite contract which renews automatically year on year until he thinks he wants to retire or change."


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