Real Madrid pres. denies influence over Messi exit

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has denied claims he had “any influence” on Lionel Messi‘s exit from Barcelona.

Messi was unveiled at Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday after joining the club as a free agent.

Jaume Llopis, a member of Joan Laporta’s board at Barcelona who resigned following Messi’s departure, claimed that both Perez and Barcelona CEO Ferran Reverter convinced Laporta to let Messi go and not accept LaLiga selling 10% of €2.7 billion of its business to investment fund CVC Capital Partners.

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The investment from the fund would increase Barca’s league-imposed spending limit and would have allowed the club to register their summer signings as well as complete the new contract it had agreed with Messi last month.

Perez, whose club is against the LaLiga agreement with CVC, has demanded a rectification from Llopis and said in a statement on Wednesday: “It is impossible that I have had any influence neither on the departure of Messi nor on any other decision of F.C. Barcelona.

“It is completely false that I have been friends for a long time with FC Barcelona CEO Ferran Reverter, since I have only met him twice in my life, four months ago and on Saturday in the meeting that took place in Barcelona with president Joan Laporta and [Juventus] president Andrea Agnelli, when the official communication on Messi had already taken place.”

Agnelli, Perez and Laporta, whose clubs are the remaining founding members of the Super League, met in Barcelona on Saturday with Barca having already announced Messi’s 21-year association with the club would not continue due to financial restraints.

Florentino Perez has denied being involved in Lionel Messi’s departure from Barcelona. ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP via Getty Images

A day later, a tearful Messi said in his farewell speech at the Camp Nou: “I don’t know about Barcelona, but I did everything possible to remain.”

Llopis said that what most annoyed him was seeing Laporta “eating and toasting at the Botafumeiro [a restaurant in Barcelona] with Agnelli and Florentino when all of us were in shock with what happened… Messi’s departure is a manoeuvre that benefits Florentino. Imagine that now [PSG’s Kylian] Mbappe ends up at Real Madrid.”

Mbappe, whose contract with PSG expires next summer, has been a long-term target of Madrid.

Messi’s arrival to Paris led to increased speculation that the French forward would arrive to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium this summer.

However, PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi said during Messi’s unveiling on Wednesday: “I think we have the most competitive team. Now there is no choice for Kylian but to stay here in Paris.”