The Barcelona president who made Pep Guardiola coach and oversaw the most prolific period in the club’s history presented his campaign to lead the club for a second time in a press conference on Monday and made keeping Lionel Messi his priority.
Joan Laporta promised if he won the January 24 elections he would sit down with Messi and try to persuade him to stay at the club although he admitted the club would need a plan B if the 33-year-old’s mind could not be changed.
‘Messi loves Barça, nobody can doubt that,’ said Laporta. ‘We have a relationship of respect and affection. The best thing for him is to wait to see who wins the election and then see what they propose. I think if he receives a good proposal he will stay.
Joan Laporta (left) is bidding to return to Barcelona and is desperate for Lionel Messi to stayInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
‘Everyone will believe they can convince Messi to stay. We have to get the Masia [youth academy] back. It works well but we need to introduce a greater level of professionalism.
‘It would be great to go on having the leadership of Messi on the pitch. We know he can’t go on forever but he still has some years left playing at the highest level. We hope that is the way it works out and if not, that we have alternative plans.’
Laporta said he had not spoken to Guardiola who he hired as first team coach in 2008. He congratulated him on his new contract at Manchester City but did not rule out trying to bring him back to the club at some point in the future.
Laporta oversaw one of the most successful eras in the history of Barcelona
Pep Guardiola was promoted to manager under Laporta and the silverware began to flow
He said: ‘[Pep] is a friend and if he has taken that decision [to stay at Manchester City] and he is happy then congratulations. Like all Barça fans I hope he returns one day. And if I win perhaps one day I can achieve that.’
Laporta said he had not spoken to Guardiola or Txiki Begiristain. ‘They are good friends,’ he added. ‘I can ask them for advice and they will give it to me.’
Laporta began by stressing his role in making both Guardiola and Messi such important figures at the club when he was last president between 2003 and 2010. He said: ‘When I decided that Pep Guardiola would be the coach of the new project [in 2008] I went to Leo Messi’s house and I explained to him and his father that there was a new project and who the new coach and players would be. I told him that he should be the leader of that new project and that he should wear the number 10 shirt [he had previously worn the number 19].Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer