Jose Elias, Barcelona’s highest financial guarantor, believes the club was correct not to keep Lionel Messi last summer because he was too old.
The controversy over the statements, which were made on Wednesday to the radio show ‘La Sotana,’ coincides with Barcelona’s decision to extend Dani Alves’ contract until the end of the season despite his age of 38.
Messi, 34, left Barcelona last summer to join Paris Saint-Germain, with Barça reportedly reversing their decision in the final hour after believing they might offer the Argentine a new contract.
After winning the election last April, Elias came to new president Joan Laporta’s rescue by helping him put up the required £105 million (€125 million) guarantee (15 percent of the club’s expected budget for the 2020-21 season), according to Forbes. He explained to La Sotana why Messi did not stay for three reasons.
‘The club’s salary structure: we had to face certain compensation cuts that would have been difficult to defend (had Messi been given a lucrative new contract),’ he explained.
‘Secondly, we didn’t have the funds to pay him, so we bent over backwards to pay him in installments, much as Paris Saint-Germain is doing now.’ You’ve got to be kidding yourself if you believe that’ll last.
‘And, third, there was a need to create a new team and some new excitement, which you couldn’t accomplish with Messi.’ He is of an age where he should not be at Barça.’
If Messi wins the Champions League this summer, the last phrase will come back to haunt him.
For the time being, with Messi unable to make an impression in Ligue 1, some Barcelona fans will agree, albeit the club’s direction has once again been called into question following the signing of Alves the day before.
Elias even suggested that the club should have let Messi go sooner. ‘We would have gained some money if we had let Messi go a year earlier,’ he claimed. All things considered, I would have been delighted with €100 million (£84 million).’
After a quarrel with then-president Josep Bartomeu, Messi sought to leave a year ago, but the club refused.
However, no club was willing to pay a transfer fee. Manchester City were intrigued, but only if he agreed to go for free, allowing them to focus all of their resources on matching his wage demands.