Former Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has accused successor Joan Laporta of badly managing the club’s finances as the fallout surrounding Lionel Messi’s departure continues.
Bartomeu, who stepped down as Barca chief in October 2020 after nearly seven years in the role, also questioned why Barca reached an out-of-court settlement with former player Neymar over money owed in an open letter to his successor.
Laporta pointed the blame at Barca’s former board for leaving the club in such a bad financial mess that they were not able to fulfil an agreement with star player Messi over a new long-term deal.
However, commenting on Messi’s high-profile exit for the first time, Bartomeu has insisted his planned economic measures would have helped Barcelona through the effects of the coronavirus pandemic as he switched the focus of the blame to Laporta.
“As is known, our board of directors planned to call elections on March 21, within the statutory period at the end of our mandate, which would have allowed us to take on and carry out the settlement of the 2020-21 season accounts,” Bartomeu said.
“We would then have taken the decisions necessary to avoid arriving at the current financial situation.
“We would have been the only ones responsible for the closure [due to the pandemic] and its consequences, a decision that the new board has not taken throughout these past months, making clear their inaction.”
Bartomeu went on to suggest that the club could possibly have stayed within LaLiga’s salary cap limit, and therefore prevented Messi from joining Paris Saint-Germain, had they accepted external support.
“From April 2020 we began the Barcelona Corporate project, consisting, in summary, of the entry of four strategic partners,” Bartomeu said.
“If [Laporta’s] board had approved the [Barcelona Corporate] project, it would have meant a capital injection of at least 220 million euros with the aim of reducing the income losses caused by COVID…which in 2020-21 could be 375 million.
“If to those 220 million euros we had added the necessary 20 per cent salary reduction (90 million euros) from the players’ contracts, essential from March 21, 2021, when the worst expectations were confirmed, the salary ratio dictated by LaLiga would have been complied with, allowing for players to be registered.”
Bartomeu then switched focus to the recent news that Barcelona had reached an amicable agreement to end their long-running dispute over Neymar’s move to PSG in a world-record €222million transfer in August 2017.
The Brazil international had claimed he was owed €43.6million in unpaid bonuses by Barca, but the LaLiga giants counter-sued for a breach of contract and a judge ruled in the club’s favour, ordering Neymar to pay €6.7m.
Bartomeu added: “Also surprising is his decision to forgive former player Neymar in the framework of a litigation where the expectations in favour of FC Barcelona were quite clear and the auditor did not oblige, in any case, to supply any amount.
“Why did you make this decision contrary to the interests of the club?”