Potential presidential candidate says "departure must be as friendly as possible" and hopes for future role for Messi at Barcelona
Wednesday 2 September 2020 08:58, UK
Barcelona presidential hopeful Victor Font says it seems unlikely Lionel Messi will change his mind about leaving the club.
Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports, Font - the man who hopes to take over from current president Josep Bartomeu - stated his belief while there is hope, the likely outcome is that the player will leave.
Messi now considers himself to be 'on strike' and Barcelona have fined him for failing to report for training on Monday and Tuesday, as the Argentine no longer considers himself a part of Ronald Koeman's squad.
Sky Sports News' Gary Cotterill sat down with Font for an in-depth interview on the transfer story which has shaken the world of football...
Lionel Messi loves the club and all of the supporters love him - how has it come to this?
"That's a very good question and one that all of us who love Barca should talk about - how has this happened? By trying to answer this question we should be able to start solving the situation.
"Messi loves the club and he wants to win, he wants to compete - he has been saying this for many, many years, it's not just been for a few weeks and unfortunately the club has not been able to deliver on the promise of building a competitive team."
Can you see any way for the club to now prevent Lionel Messi from leaving?
"That's the hope, right? Until it's over there is always hope. And therefore I really hope the decision can be changed.
"It doesn't seem likely, though, and therefore if that's the case, the focus should be on making the transition as smooth as possible.
"And the ties between Messi and Barcelona that go very deep, remain there, so we can ensure somehow, the relationship continues in the future."
Do you feel that if you were in charge he wouldn't be in this situation?
"We have been working for many years on devising a project which changes the way the club is managed, we've been saying that we need to have a very solid organisation with the talent in charge of that who know about football.
"Currently you have the president, the chairman of the board and even some directors making decisions about signings, about selling players and that needs to be changed.
"That's why we've been working on a project and we need people to lead that who come from the world of football."
Would you urge Messi to hang on and wait to see what happens with the presidential elections?
"That's what I was referring to earlier in terms of us doing as much as we can but I'm sure what he has decided has not been a last-minute decision, it'll be something well thought out.
"If that gets confirmed, we would make sure on getting the transition that Messi deserves."
So you would be building a club in tribute to him rather than having him as any part of it?
"I would try, as much as possible (to keep him). But I think we also need to ensure that the dynamics, the legal battle between the club and Lionel Messi, stop. We sit down, we talk. He loves the club, the club loves him, so let's make sure we don't get into an even worse situation."
But being realistic, you feel it is too late to go back now?
"That's the way it seems. This is the best football club in the world and we will do everything to ensure that the association with Messi stays.
Maybe there would be a place for him in the future as a coach or as a member of the board?
"Being the best player in the history of the sport carries a lot of weight. You see it with Maradona, with Pele, with Johan Cruyff, these people carry a lot of value to the organisation they belong to. That's why we need to ensure that happens."
How would you get out of this situation where the player costs €700m now but can leave on a free transfer at the end of next season?
"The president as recently as a couple of months ago said players have earned the right to leave and retire whenever they want. Now, because of these very exceptional circumstances, the president has to honour that commitment if he is serious about that."
Have the club betrayed Lionel Messi?
"There is an inconsistency, right? Probably due to mismanagement by the current administration and the current board, trying to hide behind these wrongdoings. That's why it's extremely important to the history of the club that we do what it takes."
There has been a "deafening silence" from the majority of the Barcelona squad since Lionel Messi handed in a transfer request.
Barcelona consider Messi to be on strike and have fined him for failing to report for training on Monday and Tuesday, but the Argentine no longer considers himself a part of Ronald Koeman's squad.
There has been a deafening silence from most of Koeman's playing staff regarding Messi's situation, with the possible exception of Luis Suarez - whose future at the club remains unclear - and Arturo Vidal, who is in a similar position.
Messi had, for a while at least, believed he could walk away from Barcelona on a free transfer by exercising a clause in his contract which stipulated he could leave at the end of every season without a single Euro being paid to the club.
Even though the deadline to exercise the clause has passed, Messi's lawyers believe Barcelona should honour it as the season had to be extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, La Liga has bolstered Barcelona's stance, with the club insisting the clause has expired and the only way Messi will be allowed to leave is if his €700m release clause is paid in full.
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