Barcelona president makes impassioned plea to Lionel Messi over future

Barcelona’s newly-elected president Joan Laporta declared his love for Lionel Messi in an impassioned plea to the forward to stay at the club during his inauguration on Wednesday.

Laporta was sworn in for his second tenure as club chief in the ceremony at the Nou Camp as he looks to revive Barca’s fortunes amid a turbulent period in their history.

Key to his manifesto in the lead-up to the election was resolving the future of Barca’s talisman, with Laporta even insisting Messi would only extend his deal if he emerged victorious from the voting.

And Laporta has wasted little time in turning on his charm offensive since beating Victor Font and Toni Freixa into the chair with a 54% majority, immediately tackling the burning issue at hand in his opening speech.

Joan Laporta pleaded with Lionel Messi to commit his future to Barcelona

“We will try to convince Leo to stay at the club,” Laporta said, to a round of cheers and applause. “You have to stay, sorry for the reference, but I love you. You know it. We love you.”

In Messi’s case it seems time may be healing his wounds, with the 33-year-old’s stance seemingly more relaxed since he slapped in a transfer request by burofax back in August.

Ronald Koeman has Barcelona back winning again, with just five points now separating them and La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid, while a Copa Del Rey final is to come after a miraculous turnaround against Sevilla which had Messi and his teammates celebrating jubilantly.

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The Argentine forward cast his vote in the election – though did not reveal who he backed – but his presence in the stands perhaps filled in the blanks as Laporta outlined his vision for a brighter future at the club.

“We have a big challenge, and we will take it on with the most responsibility. We will bring back glory to Barcelona,” said Laporta.

“You all know how I work as a president. We will always help you and protect you.”

Laporta set out his vision to bring "glory" back to the club
Laporta set out his vision to bring “glory” back to the club

The biggest factor for Barcelona now is steadying their finances while also rebuilding a side capable of competing at the top level in order to convince Messi he can land another Champions League trophy in their colours.

Their early exit from the competition to PSG – one of the viable options potentially available to Messi should he move on – will have done little to placate his concerns.

New arrivals could still be imminent however, with both Lyon’s Memphis Depay and Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum mooted as potential summer signings on free transfers – two players who would go some way to strengthening Barcelona if the budget allows.

Where will Messi be playing his football next season? Have your say below.

Messi's contract runs out in June with his decision still pending
Messi’s contract runs out in June with his decision still pending

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Tying Messi down to a new deal, should he decide to do so come June, will not come cheap either.

And despite his optimism, Laporta made no bones about the perilous situation Barcelona currently find themselves in.

“The economical and financial situation at the club is difficult, of course,” he added. “We will need to work a lot with a lot of effort, it’s a priority.

“We will do everything to be back at the top. Now that we have the power to make decisions, we will make brave ones and find new ways of income.”

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