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Bartomeu rubbishes Messi exit claims

Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says he does not believe that Lionel Messi is really considering a move away from the Camp Nou.

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Madrid-based press reports last week claimed that Messi had become disillusioned at Barca amid issues with some teammates and suggested he might welcome the idea of Manchester City meeting his 200 million-euro release clause.

But the recently installed Blaugrana chief told El Larguero that as far as he is aware Messi remains fully committed to the club.

Lionel Messi celebrates in the rain after scoring his first goal at Sevilla.
Lionel Messi has spent his entire career at Barcelona.

“Messi does not want to leave Barcelona, that is what I think,” Bartomeu said. “He came up through the ranks at our club, and is having an unbelievable career. I do not believe anyone will play the clause. I believe that if someday Messi wants to leave, we will try and convince him to change his mind.”

Messi is not the only Argentine whose future at the Camp Nou has been questioned, with some reports suggesting coach Gerardo Martino will leave this summer by mutual consent after just one season in charge. Bartomeu said he would like Tata to remain Barca boss next season.

“I hope that Tata Martino has a long life as Barca coach, but the day that changes we will have [another] technical team,” he said. “We will look for the best option. We would like him to stay [this summer]. The contract says that.”

Bartomeu, who was appointed as successor to Sandro Rosell as Barca chief, also reiterated the club’s take on the controversial deal to sign Neymar last summer, insisting that the only issue still to be resolved was where the different taxes due should have been paid.

“The cost is 57.1 million euros in the transfer, and then we will pay 7.9 million to Santos for a technical agreement,” Bartomeu said. “The 86 million figure includes the player’s salary. The transfer cost 57.1 million.

“We have spoken with the [Audiencia] court and with the judge [Pablo Ruz] and to avoid future fines we have paid [taxes] in Spain and in Brazil. Now the two tax authorities must come to an agreement themselves. The signing was difficult and our president [Rosell] took the reins. The contracts are legal and now the only problem is where to pay the tax.”

Bartomeu claimed that Rosell’s surprise exit from the Camp Nou in January had not been directly due to the controversy which erupted around the club’s record signing.

“Rosell did not resign because of Neymar, he resigned for personal reasons,” he said. “He has been travelling, we have exchanged some messages. I believe he is now in Barcelona.”

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