Victor Font, a presidential candidate at FC Barcelona has revealed plans to convince star man, Lionel Messi, to stay put with the Spanish giants in hopes to facilitate the “right conditions” for Pep Guardiola to return to the club.
Speaking to the BBC World Service’s John Bennett, the 48-year-old also touched on several issues including Ronald Koeman’s shaky start as coach of Barcelona, the potential of an European Super League and the club’s recruitment strategy.
Font’s summation on the possibility of Messi walking away from the club:
“Obviously we know that’s a possibility because he said he wanted to leave last summer, but we are hopeful. The elections are coming in 60 days and we will have a new board and a new president and a new project.
“What Messi needs in order to stay at the club is a competitive project. He wants to win – obviously, the lack of a project in recent times has affected the way we compete and therefore I’m very much hoping that whenever the new president takes over, hopefully, it will be us, we can convince him to stay.”
Messi whose contract expires next summer, put in a transfer request last term but a clause in his contract prevented a move from materializing. The 33-year-old Argentinian has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona and is widely regarded as the club’s greatest player ever, with 640 goals, 10 La Liga titles, and four Champions League titles to his name.
On the possibility of Messi moving to Manchester City:
“Every time [City coach] Pep Guardiola speaks about this, he says it very clear that he believes that Messi should stay at Barca and that he’s a Barca one-club man. He wishes that he finishes his career at FC Barcelona.”
On what he needs to do to change Messi’s mind about leaving:
“We need to ensure he understands there is a project, a winning – a competitive project. For us, the association between Barca and Messi is a very strategic association. He’s been at the club since he was 13 and we believe that this association needs to go even beyond the days that he’s on the pitch (post-retirement).
“We believe that this association has a lot of potential for the years to come and we are hopeful that if we present this to him and his team he will see this as a good opportunity.”
On Barcelona’s chances of re-signing Guardiola:
“The project that we’ve been working on is one that will try to create, if we are honoured to be chosen, the right conditions for this top talent, that is very much linked to Barca, to return to their club at some point in time.
“And we know, that at some point, Pep will want to return, even if it’s for personal reasons. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will be able to create those conditions and be able to count on Pep’s talent for the good of the club.”
Catalan Pep Guardiola, 49, came up through the ranks to become a Barcelona first-team player and then coach. Between 2008 and 2012, he helped the club win three league titles and two Champions League crowns. Guardiola recently signed a new two-year deal with Manchester City, which he took charge of in 2016.
Pep Guardiola, currently Manager of Premier League club, Manchester City came through the ranks at his native Catalan club to become a first-team player, before repeating the feat as a coach when he came through from Barcelona B coach to become the first-team coach in 2008.
On club legend Xavi Hernandez being his long-term preference as head coach:
“We decided he is the best person to lead the project in years to come – that happened four or five years ago when we were starting to define the project.
“We saw he has unique leadership skills and unique team management skills – he has everything that one needs to take the leadership role off the pitch. We see him as a key figure in the project in the years to come, taking more of a general manager type of role. It’s what Alex Ferguson was at Manchester United. The hope is that a legend that has all these skills, like Xavi, can play a similar role in the years to come at FC Barcelona.”
Xavi progressed from La Masia (Barcelona’s Academy) to the first team, winning numerous titles in his 17-year stint at the club before moving to Qatar.
On Ronald Koeman’s tough start to life as Manager:
“We should be thankful he took responsibility during difficult times which says a lot about him. We started the year well and I like the fact he is giving opportunity to youth talent. I’m hoping good results come back. I’m confident we have a competitive team and can win silverware this year.”
Barcelona are going through their worst start to a La Liga season since 1991/92 languishing in 10th position with 11 points from eight games.
On transfer strategy:
“The election this time will be exceptional – during a pandemic and all clubs hit by the economic crisis. They are also likely to happen a week before the winter transfer window will be closed. Given everything, I don’t expect signings to play a relevant role in this election. We’ve been working with the sports organisation on the type of needs the club may have for next season.”
On the potential of a European Super League:
“We know that there are talks. There have been talks for many years, but the reality is we don’t know the details about such potential competitions.
“We obviously also believe that the current Champions League format can be improved to see more top teams [facing each other]. We don’t need to wait seven, eight years to see Liverpool v Barca for example, but we need to understand a bit what the alternatives are. We’ll obviously be supportive of any measure, any initiative that enriches the game.”
Former Barcelona president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, revealed he had given the all-clear for the club to join a European Super League.
An election to replace Bartomeu, who resigned from his role as President will take place on January 24, 2021.
Any individual elected President of the club earns a mandate to serve in the post for six years.