Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta claimed he is the man best placed to persuade Lionel Messi to stay at Camp Nou.
Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the Argentine’s long-term future with Barca remains unclear.
The 33-year-old sent shockwaves through the world of football when he expressed a desire to end his near two-decade association with the Blaugrana ahead of the 2020-21 season, but after a lengthy transfer saga he opted to stay put.
An end to the tenure of Josep Maria Bartomeu – with whom Messi has had a tense relationship – as president in October has prompted the club to bring forward their elections to January 24.
Laporta, who served as Barca president between 2003 and 2010, is considered the leading candidate to triumph in the elections according to a poll in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo.
Since his debut in October 2004, Barca have won 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without Messi (won 66, drawn 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (won 368, drawn 83 and lost 48).
And Laporta believes his own personal relationship with Messi elevates him above other presidential candidates.
“I see him [Messi] as positive because he said he will wait until the end of the season, and that gives us time to make a convincing proposal,” Laporta told Marca.
“And I have an advantage, with Leo I have credibility. He always tells me that everything I promised him was fulfilled. You know that if I give my word, I keep it.
“We missed huge opportunities having the best player in the world. At Barca there are no transition years.
“We should have won more Champions Leagues, we hope to resume that success story of Barca with the competition. By the way, during my [previous] tenure Madrid did not win any.”
PLAYER UPDATE | Leo #Messi is fit and is in the squad for #HuescaBarça! pic.twitter.com/2HFAPUjunC
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) January 2, 2021
Other candidates have made bold claims about which players they will bring to Camp Nou if they were elected.
Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland plus Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have been the most high-profile names, but Laporta would not be drawn on transfer targets.
“I have my own sports project. I will not fall into the trap of naming names,” he added.
“All the agents are calling me. I know them all and they want me to be president again, but I tell them that now I’m not talking about players or coaches.”
Laporta also believes Barca’s influence has diminished in recent years and he would seek to restore their standing.
“It has lost a lot of specific weight in the Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, UEFA, FIFA and in all the bodies that govern football,” he explained.
“Barca has to regain its credibility. We must have a presence to intervene in decision-making that affects football in general.”