Josep Maria Bartomeu used his first public forum since Neymar's record-breaking move to Paris Saint-Germain to insist that no player is above the club while also warning fans that the 222-million-euro windfall from the transfer would be used "prudently." .
Barcelona president Bartomeu and his board are under pressure to wisely reinvest the huge sum, which more than doubled the previous record for a transfer fee, before the transfer window closes on August 31.
"No player is above Barca," Bartomeu told the world congress of Barca supporters groups. This is a club with 118 years of history that has had great players like Kubala, Maradona, Cruyff, Schuster and Ronaldinho. We have more than 140,000 members. Barça is not owned by a sheikh, or a multi-millionaire, or an oligarch. It belongs to us, to the members. And the loyalty shown by Messi shold be an example to the players at this club, as should Iniesta’s, and we are trying to ensure that he remains with us until the end of his career. We look for loyalty and allegiance and Messi is an example of that.”
"Neymar wanted to go. We did everything for him to stay"
"You know that Neymar formed part of the success of our club, but Neymar is now history. He wanted to go. It was his decision although we did everything in our hands for him to stay."
Barca were powerless to stop Neymar leaving after PSG met the buyout clause in the Brazilian's contract, which he had signed just last year.
However, Bartomeu defended himself from criticism that the club should have insisted on inserting a much higher buyout clause in that deal to fend off PSG's millions.
Neymar's clause rose from 200 to 222 million euros from July 1 and would have jumped to 250 million had he entered the third year of the five-year deal.
Bartomeu: "We foresaw he could leave, that's why we raised the clause"
"We foresaw that he could leave in the future, that is why we raised his buyout clause in the new contact," added Bartomeu. Receiving this money allows us to face the future with guarantees to strengthen the team. "When the doubts over his future began we were calm because his decision would be a good one.
"If he stayed we would maintain a great player and if he went, obviously paying his clause, we had the guarantee of being able to bring new players."
Barca have been linked with a series of potential replacements for Neymar with Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho heading their wish list.
Yet, Bartomeu promised to be act with "prudence" despite having to deal in a transfer market characterised by hyperinflation due to booming television rights deals.
"The 222 million euros that we received for Neymar Jr will be administered with prudence, rigour and serenity," he said.