I hoped Messi would offer to play for free: Barcelona president

Barcelona president Joan Laporta revealed on Friday he hoped Lionel Messi would change his mind about leaving the club and agree to play for free.

Messi joined Paris Saint-Germain in August after Barca decided not to renew the Argentinian’s contract due to La Liga’s strict salary constraints.

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“There came a time when both parties saw that it would not be possible. There was a disappointment on both sides,” Laporta told Catalan radio station RAC1.

“He wanted to stay but they also had a lot of pressure because of the offer they had. They knew if he didn’t stay, he would go to PSG.”

Laporta continued: “I hoped Messi would do a u-turn and he would say he would play for free.

“I would have liked that and I would have been all for it. It is my understanding La Liga would have accepted it. But we cannot ask a player of Messi’s stature to do this.”

Laporta said the club’s dreadful financial state meant they were unable to keep Messi on the same terms. Barca incurred losses of 481 million euros (US dollar 556 million) the previous season, with a gross debt of 1.35 billion euros.

“We had the conclusions of the audit (on Wednesday) and the investment in Leo would have put us at risk,” said Laporta, who also suggested Barcelona could yet sign up to a deal with investment fund CVC Capital Partners.

La Liga told Barca in August they could keep Messi provided they agreed to the arrangement, which comprised the league selling 10 percent of the commercial business, including television rights, for the next 50 years, in exchange for 2.7 billion euros.

Barcelona, Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao rejected the offer.

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