Laporta pledges to keep Messi at Barcelona

·2-min read

Joan Laporta has promised to do everything he can to persuade Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona, as well as offering an assurance to head coach Ronald Koeman amid speculation over the Dutchman's future.

Laporta was officially unveiled as Barca's new president at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Laporta's pitch to Messi came two days after the Argentine joined Xavi as the club's record appearance maker on 767 games, marking the occasion by scoring twice in a 4-1 rout of Huesca.

"I'll do everything I can to make Leo stay because he's the best player in history," Laporta said in his speech at the Camp Nou, as Messi, fellow captains Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto and Sergio Busquets and Korman watched on.

"You know I love you, you know Barca loves you and if this stadium were full when you played, you wouldn't want to leave.

"Whatever you decide is fine in the end, but we'll try."

Messi has scored 27 goals in all competitions this season under Koeman, who has Barca in contention for the league title in Spain after a shaky start to his debut campaign in charge.

They are also through to the Copa del Rey final - Athletic Bilbao will be their opponents on April 17 - but hopes of Champions League glory were dashed by PSG at the last-16 stage.

Still, Barca are on a 17-game unbeaten streak in the domestic top-flight, Laporta making clear his confidence in Koeman.

"Ronald, you have our confidence," he said.

"We want to go back to that success story between Barca and the Champions League.

"This year we have to go for LaLiga and for the cup."

Laporta, who presided over one of Barca's most memorable periods between 2003 and 2010, which included Messi's rise from the youth ranks and countless titles, won the election on March 7 with 54 per cent of members' votes.

He then faced an unexpected scramble to secure a guarantee of 125 million euros ($$192m) within 10 days of winning the election to secure his position and avoid a second election, eventually getting over the line thanks to the backing of Catalan businessman Jose Elias, CEO of renewable energy firm Audax.

Laporta inherits a deep financial crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and said getting the accounts in order would be his priority, also predicting the club would soon return to earning the same amount of revenue as before the pandemic hit last year.