Barcelona's Bartomeu 'main obstacle' to Lionel Messi deal - Agusti Benedito
BARCELONA -- Agusti Benedito has hit back at Josep Maria Bartomeu's claim that a new contract for Lionel Messi is close to being tied up.
Benedito, looking to gather support for a vote of no confidence against the Barca board, claimed president Bartomeu could be "the main obstacle" to the deal being signed and said his comments "don't help."
Bartomeu has said in recent interviews that Barcelona fans have nothing to fear because the contract, announced by the club in July, has been signed by Messi's father.
However, former presidential candidate Benedito said: "Bartomeu's said that the contract is signed and it's just lacking the protocol.
"But that contract, without Leo's signature, is not valid. Even though his father has signed, it needs the player's signature."
Earlier this month, Benedito told ESPN FC he believed there was a chance that Messi could leave because of board mismanagement.
And on Thursday he said: "It's possible that Bartomeu's presence is the main obstacle.
"I hope that the president explains everything truthfully. It's not the first time he's lied."
Earlier this month, Benedito launched his vote of no confidence, which needs 16,750 signatures to take it to the second phase.
That would then see club members vote on whether the board should remain in power.
"We're up to 10,715 signatures now," Benedito said. "We are a little ahead of where we expected to be, so we're really happy.
"We have 12 days left to get the rest of the signatures. It's a big challenge, but one which is more within reach all the time.
"We're convinced we will be able to put this board to a vote to decide whether they continue or if they have to leave."
Benedito believes he has until Oct. 2 to get the signatures, but Barcelona say he has until Sept. 27.
But he said: "I'm not thinking about gifting [the board] even a single day of those in which we are within our rights to collect signatures.
"The difference between Sept. 27 and Oct. 2 is five days and one game at Camp Nou [against Las Palmas]. We will implement the rights of the club members to whatever point necessary.
"If 18,000 members want to vote on whether Bartomeu continues or not, they [the board] have to let them. Reason must prevail."
Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.