FC Barcelona – La Liga Believes he can convince Messi to stay
Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta is seen as the favourite in the upcoming vote.
Laporta was the president between 2003 and 2010, overseeing Barcelona’s most successful ever period, and his affection for the club has seen him lead an impassioned campaign to return to the highest position at the Camp Nou.
“Because I love Barcelona,” Laporta responded when asked why he was running again. “I like challenges and this is the most important in my life right now.
“Sure I made mistakes [in first spell], but I prefer to remember the good times. I learned from mistakes and that experience will help me to not repeat them. I do not intend to look in the rear-view mirror, I am very focused on what to do from the 24th [of January].
“I have very good memories of the past, things turned out very well. Excuse me for remembering only the good. From the bad, [I aim to] learn and correct it.”
Laporta was a vocal critic of former president Josep Maria Bartomeu throughout his presidency.
“I already said in 2015 that I did not trust the people who were going to run the club nor their management model. We left such a good legacy – they wanted to take advantage of it so much but they didn’t make the appropriate adjustments.”
Real Madrid won three Champions League titles when Bartomeu was in charge and Laporta laments the fact that Barcelona only added one such trophy in that time.
“We missed huge opportunities having the best player in the world [Leo Messi],” he said.
“We should have won more Champions Leagues, we hope to resume that success story of Barcelona with the Champions League. By the way, during my tenure Madrid did not win any.”
Laporta is not shy of stirring up controversy, highlighted by his decision to hang a giant campaign poster of himself on a building close to the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in December.
“The poster has a sense of humour and irony that can be accepted,” he defended.
“It is not to provoke, it is to highlight my profile. I think they have accepted it with humour and sympathy.”
Life under new coach Ronald Koeman hasn’t started well, with the Dutchman recording Barcelona’s worst start to a campaign since Frank Rijkaard was in charge 17 years ago, during Laporta’s time as president.
“I remember our first year with Rijkaard. The first part of the season was stressful because we were not winning. Valencia, Deportivo and Real Madrid came and beat us [at Camp Nou],” he recalled.
“The second half was spectacular. We did not lose in 18 games and we were on the verge of winning the league. By this I mean that anything can happen in football.
“Football is a state of mind and what now seems complicated can change. And that is what we will try if I am president because at Barcelona there are no transitional years.”
Asked what he would like to dedicate to Johan Cruyff at the end of his hypothetical next five years as president, Laporta’s eyes filled up.
“When you ask me about Johan, I get emotional,” he said. “Of course I would dedicate all the successes to him, but, above all, all the games in which we play spectacular football, those played with the genuine style of Johan.”
A big issue that needs to be resolved by the incoming president is the matter of Leo Messi’s possible departure, with the player giving a recent interview that suggested he still wasn’t happy. But Laporta doesn’t feel that all hope is lost just yet.
“I see it as positive because he said he will wait until the end of the season and that gives us time to make a convincing proposal,” he said.
“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.”
“If a Martian comes down to earth and sees the VAR, he would quickly say that it is in favour of Madrid,” Laporta stated.
He also believes that Barcelona have lost their influence at the highest level of the sport.
“It has lost a lot of specific weight in the [Spanish Football] Federation, LaLiga Santander, UEFA, FIFA and in all the bodies that govern football,” he said.
“Barcelona have to regain their credibility. They must have a presence to intervene in decision-making that affects football in general. In my previous spell, for example, I did not miss a meeting of the RFEF.”
With a new president inevitably comes rumours of new coaches and players.
“I have my own sporting project. I have three names for the technical secretary position. I will not fall into the trap of naming names,” he said.
“It is not that I want to avoid the question, it is that the price of the player would rise and our player in that position would suffer a drop.
“All the agents are calling me. I know them all and they want me to be president again, but I have told them that I’m not talking about players or coaches for now.”
“The technical secretary would have to inform us. What I would ask the secretary is not to limit himself in his tasks.”
Laporta is quite an outspoken figure, particularly regarding political affairs, yet he insists he doesn’t want any controversy.
“I will not fall into the trap of those who want to divide us,” he insisted.
“Those who promote this type of conflict are those who use politics for everything. Now this is not a priority. Now it’s time to get the club back on track and for Barcelona to be an engine of optimism.
“Favourite for the election? I don’t think about it. I am optimistic and I have the mindset of a winner.”