Barcelona board ask for 'respect not insults' at Paulinho unveiling
BARCELONA -- Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre says the board would prefer "respect not insults" after the club unveiled Paulinho as their fourth signing of the summer on Thursday.
Paulinho joins Barca from Guangzhou Evergrande for €40 million in a transfer which has sparked an online campaign calling for president Josep Maria Bartomeu to resign.
The campaign centres around a string of poor management decisions supporters feel the club have made, with the signing of a 29-year-old for such a high fee from the Chinese Super League deemed the breaking point.
"Fans are free to express what feelings they want," Mestre said at Paulinho's presentation. "We would prefer respect, not insults, but I have no knowledge that Bartomeu will resign [because of the campaign].
"There have been better times during our mandate, but we've come through difficult times. So we need to keep working hard and hope once again that things will work out for the better."
Asked if he was affected by the circumstances surrounding his signing, Paulinho said: "My life has always been about dealing bravely with challenges. I don't like to talk about these things, but about what's important, which is playing on the pitch and helping Barca win titles.
"Things that aren't related to that don't worry me. I just worry about doing my job properly, with humility. I am ready for this, that's why I accepted [the proposal] to come here and to pursue my dream. Of course there's pressure and there will be pressure. I've dealt with pressure before, but I feel I can deal with it."
Paulinho, who underwhelmed while attempting kick-ups at his unveiling, also appeared to confirm reports he has taken a pay cut to leave China, saying: "Economically, there are plenty of places I can go to make money but I am more concerned about my career."
Meanwhile, Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez, seated alongside Mestre and Paulinho, denied the suggestion the Brazil international's arrival could signal the end of Sergi Roberto's time at the Camp Nou, with Manchester United and Chelsea reportedly interested in the midfielder.
"I have heard a lot about Sergi Roberto this week," he said. "I have spoken with him recently and it was a very normal conversation. I asked him to do what he did last season again. We value players from the youth team and he can give us a lot, so don't read too much into Paulinho arriving."
Mestre was also asked if, following the departure of Neymar and the Spanish Super Cup loss to Real Madrid, he was worried about Messi not signing the contract extension agreed in June.
"We have spoken about things and agreed things and it's just a question of setting a date to sign the papers," he said. "We're quite clear about this, we've been sorting things out over several months. I would be very surprised if Messi didn't sign his extension."
Mestre had made a similar affirmation when the reports first surfaced of Neymar's move to Paris Saint-Germain, saying he was "200 percent" certain the forward would stay with the club.
However, he stands by that comment and says the club had no idea at the time Neymar could depart.
"Amongst the board we had no idea that Neymar wanted to leave," he said. "But as time went on, Neymar didn't come out and say anything to the contrary, so doubts started setting in.
"When we were on the U.S. tour, we again found that he didn't deny the rumours or say anything clear, so we had serious doubts. But when I said 200 percent it's because I really didn't know at the time and we didn't want him to leave.
"If Neymar told the other players, he's free to do that. But we did not get a yes or no out of Neymar and as days went past and he didn't deny them we began to think something was amiss."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.