Barcelona presidential candidate Victor Font is hoping to convince talisman, Lionel Messi, to stay at the Nou Camp, with the aim of creating the “right conditions” for the return of former coach Pep Guardiola to the club.
Speaking with BBC World Service’s John Bennett, the 48-year-old candidate also spoke about Ronald Koeman‘s turbulent first three months as coach, transfer targets, and the club’s position on a European Super League.
Messi has been the best thing that has ever happened to Barcelona as he has surpassed all expectations and won everything winnable for the club. He is therefore widely regarded as the club’s greatest player. So far, Messi has scored 640 goals, won 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns during his 16 years with the Catalan giants.
The skipper had tendered a transfer request in the summer before choosing to stay. His contract expires next summer.
“Obviously we know that’s a possibility because he said he wanted to leave last summer, but we are hopeful. The elections are coming in 60 days and we will have a new board and a new president and a new project.
“What Messi needs in order to stay at the club is a competitive project. He wants to win – obviously the lack of a project in recent times has affected the way we compete and therefore I’m very much hoping that whenever the new president takes over, hopefully it will be us, we can convince him to stay.”
Speaking further on Manchester City’s chances of signing him, Fonte supported the assertion made by Guardiola, who advised the Argentine to stay at Barca, adding that he’s a one-club man.
He further stated that what is needed to convince Messi to a new deal is to ensure he understands there is a winnable and competitive project.
“For us, the association between Barca and Messi is a very strategic association. He’s been at the club since he was 13 and we believe that this association needs to go even beyond the days that he’s on the pitch (post-retirement).
“We believe that this association has a lot of potential for the years to come and we are hopeful that if we present this to him and his team he will see this as a good opportunity.”
Will Barcelona work on Guardiola’s return to Camp Nou for Messi to stay?
Having come up through the ranks to become a Barcelona first-team player and then coach between 2008 and 2012, Guardiola helped the club win three league titles and two Champions League crowns.
The Spanish tactician recently signed a new two-year extension with Manchester City he took charge of in 2016.
Fonte expressed believe that at some point, Guardiola will want to return to where he started his career as a manager.
“The project that we’ve been working on is one that will try to create if we are honoured to be chosen, the right conditions for this top talent, that is very much linked to Barca, to return to their club at some point in time.
“And we know, that at some point, Pep will want to return, even if it’s for personal reasons. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will be able to create those conditions and be able to count on Pep’s talent for the good of the club.”
Apart from former captain, Xavi Hernandez being linked to the club, Font expressed apreciation to current coach Ronald Koeman for taking up the job during a difficult moment.
Barcelona currently occupies the 10th spot in La Liga with 11 points garnered from their opening eight games. This is their worst tally at this stage since the 1991/92 season when they eventually won the championship.
“We should be thankful he took responsibility during difficult times which says a lot about him. We started the year well and I like the fact he is giving an opportunity to youth talent. I’m hoping good results come back. I’m confident we have a competitive team and can win silverware this year.”