Barcelona presidential candidate Agusti Benedito suspects the club’s current board have seriously contemplated selling star player Lionel Messi.
The Catalans’ current president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has claimed he hopes the Argentine attacker will remain at Camp Nou for many years to come, but Benedito says the mixed messages coming from the Barca board show they cannot necessarily be believed or trusted.
"They have shown in the recent past that their public quotes don’t always correspond with their ideas," the 50-year-old told Goal in an exclusive interview. "Sometimes they say things and then their actions go in the opposite direction. I hope in Messi’s case that their words and their actions correspond."
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Messi’s relationship with the current board is known to be strained and came to a head when economic vice-president Javier Faus upset the four-time Ballon d’Or winner in 2013 by saying there was "no need" to give the club’s all-time top goalscorer a new contract.
"I don’t think that was merely clumsiness," Benedito said. "No, that was an indication of his real thinking. Perhaps they had other ideas, despite what they have said publicly. And it’s a worrying issue because at times it has seemed like they are really not concerned with keeping Messi happy. Some of their decisions, their quotes and their actions make me believe they were contemplating other possibilities."
Barca face Manchester City in the Champions League on Tuesday and, despite difficulties with Financial Fair Play, the Premier League champions are one of the teams monitoring Messi’s situation at Camp Nou, along with Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.
"Messi has had really big offers from teams in different countries," Benedito said. "But I believe he genuinely wishes to end his career at Barcelona. He has been here since the age of 13, the fans love him and what Messi wants is a competitive team that allows he and his team-mates to win trophies.
"So that is what is needed: to build a team in which Messi and all of the players can reach their maximum performance. We have to recover that level of excellence we achieved before."
In the meantime, Benedito believes Messi is monitoring the club’s presidential race with interest to see who will be in charge next season. He hopes the current board don’t make any rash decisions on the Argentine’s future prior to the summer elections.
"It’s reasonable to think that Messi is waiting to see who the next Barcelona president and the new board will be," he said. "I don’t think anybody would dare sell Messi now. Elections are just around the corner, but in any case I would tell this board to avoid making any big decisions in the few weeks they have left and above all not to do anything crazy.
"It would be a mistake to sell Messi or to provoke him into deciding to join another club. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen. Messi is the best player in the world and surely the best player in history. He is a fundamental part of Barcelona over the next few years."