Laporta: “Certain figures want to force Messi out of the club”

Barcelona’s former President spoke out about the player’s conviction for tax fraud earlier this month, describing it as "a plan designed to make him leave the club." He also discussed the club's "suspicious" agreement with Qatar.

Former Barcelona President Joan Laporta appeared on Catalunya Radio this week, speaking out about the problems facing Lionel Messi and criticising the club’s board.

Laporta, who stood in the 2015 presidential elections, stated that there are some within the club that want to force the Argentine star out of the Camp Nou.

“There’s a plan among a certain figures within the club to force Messi out. The ruling of the courts should be accepted but it’s clear that Messi pays his taxes,” he said, before going on to criticise the club for not accompanying him to court during the trial. The Argentine star was found guilty along with his father of tax fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison, though neither will serve any time behind bars.

Lionel Messi was convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to 21 months in prison with over €4 million owed in back payments.

Laporta also reaffirmed that he would “probably” stand again in the next elections. “For me, Barcelona is more than a club, a club that I have had the honour of running and that we made more known and loved. Now, unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case.”

“It’s suspicious… some directors have had, and still have, business links with Qatar”

Former Barcelona President Joan Laporta on the club's renewed sponsorship deal with Qatar Airways

He also criticised the club’s renewed agreement with Qatar Airways. “They said during the last electoral campaign that they’d sign a sponsorship agreement worth €60 million, a figure we already thought was too low," he said. "It’s suspicious. They are paying, by my reckoning, less than Barça should be getting. It is also the case that some directors have had, and still have, business links with Qatar."