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Barcelona president Laporta claims he hoped Lionel Messi ‘would play for FREE’

Barcelona president Joan Laporta insists he held hopes that Lionel Messi would play for the club for free and turn down Paris Saint-Germain.

The club could not afford to keep hold of their greatest ever player amid their unprecedented financial woes, with the club racking up more than £1billion in debt and recording a £409million loss for last season.

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Club president Laporta explained earlier in the summer that Barcelona’s wage bill with six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi on the books would equal 110 per cent of their income.

As a result, the Argentina star bid an emotional farewell in a press conference before signing for the Ligue 1 giants in the summer on a two-year deal.

But Laporta, 59, has revealed he retained hope the 34-year-old would at the last minute agree to play for free, but that he ultimately acknowledge a player ‘of his level’ could not do so, especially with a ‘very powerful’ offer from PSG.

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‘With Messi I do not get angry because I appreciate him,’ Laporta told Catalan radio station RAC1 via Mundo Deportivo.

‘But when we see that he could not stay there is a certain disappointment on both sides. I know they had a huge desire to stay, but a lot of pressure because of the offer they had.

‘Everything indicates that he already had the offer from PSG. Everyone knew that he had a very powerful offer. We knew that from Messi’s side they had a very good offer.

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‘I did hope that at the last minute Messi would say he would play for free. I would have liked that and he would have convinced me. I understand that the League would have accepted it. But we cannot ask that of a player of his level.

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‘I thought it because I know him, he went up to the first team when I was there, I helped his family a lot. He knew that when we our economic situation recovered he would be reciprocated.’

The 59-year-old also claimed Barcelona tried to re-sign Neymar in the summer, but insists he was ‘convinced’ to stay at PSG by a new deal.

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However, Laporta also accused the French champions of giving them false hope, but ultimately believes their failure to bring Neymar back to the club has been beneficial amid their ongoing financial crisis.

‘We did not have the due diligence,’ Laporta added. ‘We thought we had a margin. We tried but what they told us about Ney was not true.

‘They told us that he would continue and then they convinced him. He did not disappoint me because this is football.

‘He is taken by the one who makes the best offer. Neymar could have generated a lot of income. He is a model player. The result of not signing him has been good.’

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