Lionel Messi not committing to Barcelona worries presidential hopeful Benedito

By Peter Hanson 30 December 2020 22
Lionel Messi not committing to Barcelona worries presidential hopeful Benedito

Lionel Messi's failure to fully commit his future to Barcelona during a "unique opportunity" has left presidential candidate Agusti Benedito a worried man.

Argentine great Messi, the all-time leading scorer for Barca and in LaLiga, was the subject of a lengthy transfer saga prior to the 2020-21 season.

Left humiliated by Barca's 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, Messi announced his desire to leave Camp Nou, with Manchester City having been heavily tipped as his favoured destination.

Messi cited a clause in his contract allowing him to leave for free, but both Barca and LaLiga disputed his interpretation and, not wishing to drag the issue through the courts, the club captain stayed put.

The 33-year-old was heavily critical of president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who resigned in October amid increasing pressure.

Unsurprisingly, Messi's future has been the main topic on the agenda for all candidates and the forward did not categorically state his desire to remain beyond the end of June 2021 during an interview with La Sexta, which has caused great concern for Benedito who has twice previously run for the presidency.

Speaking to Goal's Spanish edition, Benedito said: "In the summer he made some huge declarations where he said clearly that he wanted to go and asked the president to let him go and now we need him to change his mind.

"That interview was a unique opportunity to say that he was excited to continue and we didn't hear that. I wasn't able to hear a hopeful message and I'm worried, frankly.

"This time he didn't say he wanted to go but neither did he say that he wanted to stay.

"What us Cules are worried about is if he will stay on next season, that has nothing to do with what happens further down the road. We are hanging on his decision and after the interview I am still unsure whether he is interested in staying at the club because he didn't say so.

"We have the best player in the world, who in August said he wanted to leave after 20 years at the club and who still hasn't said if he wants to stay. My concern is that the most likely scenario sees him leaving us in the summer. Who wouldn't be worried about losing the best player ever?

"Everything has its beginning and end but it would be a shame for Messi's time at Barca to be cut short."

Another issue that candidates have answered plenty of questions on is the potential return of Neymar, who has been consistently linked with a move back to Camp Nou since departing for Paris Saint-Germain in 2017.

However, Benedito doubts PSG's Qatari owners would sanction a move with the country hosting the 2022 World Cup, and he suggested such a deal would not be prudent at a time where Barca's financial situation is precarious as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I don't think this is the time to be signing that kind of player and I don't think Qatar will let him go either," Benedito said.

"They are organising the World Cup finals, the investment is huge, they have a top club in world football like PSG and I think that not only will they try to keep those kind of players but that they will also go out looking for new signings.

"I think this summer we will be more focused on convincing Messi to stay than on Neymar's return."

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Peter Hanson