La Liga president Javier Tebas says he is “ready” for the exit of Lionel Messi – while criticising Manchester City, a club he believes could sign him.
Messi submitted a transfer request in August at Barcelona – who he joined as a 13-year-old – but backed down after they refused to sanction his release.
The forward had fallen out with Josep Maria Bartomeu, who subsequently resigned as Barca president in October.
Tebas wants Messi to stay in Spain but feels La Liga would cope without him.
He argued that the competition had continued to thrive following Neymar’s 2017 departure from Barcelona to Paris St-Germain, and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 2018 move from Real Madrid to Juventus.
“We would prefer Messi to stay in La Liga but Ronaldo and Neymar left and we have not noticed any difference,” Tebas said. “We are ready.”
The Argentina international, 33, would be available on a free transfer at the end of this season.
Tebas indicated that Messi’s likeliest Premier League destination, if he went to England, would be Etihad Stadium – although club sources have pointed out that no-one at City has ever spoken about signing Messi.
La Liga’s president has repeatedly criticised City, having previously made numerous allegations about their structure, including accusing them of financial doping, before they were cleared of serious FFP breaches by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July.
He aimed more criticism at them when he spoke on Tuesday.
Tebas said: “It seems the only club in Premier League that talks about registering Messi is Manchester City, who compete outside the rules. I am not the only one saying this.
“I am not too worried about them. I have criticised what they do so many times. Doing it one more time makes no difference. City is neither affected by Covid or pandemics or anything because they are financed differently and it is impossible to fight against that.”
City opted not to respond to Tebas’ comments, although it is understood they are wrestling with the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic – limiting manager Pep Guardiola to a net spend of £31m during the most recent transfer window.
‘Barca not considering insolvency proceedings’
Tebas was speaking at the end of an hour-long presentation to outline the financial state of La Liga following the close of the transfer window on 5 October.
Of particular interest was the situation at Barcelona, who he said had reduced their budget by 43%. In July, the club revealed their debt had more than doubled from 217m euros (£194.5m) to 488m euros (£437.4m), amid annual losses of 97m euros (£86.9m).
One journalist questioned whether it was possible Barca might even have to go into administration, although Tebas rejected this.
“Barcelona are not considering insolvency proceedings,” he said.
“Their debt might be slightly larger but they were perfectly solvent pre-Covid. But Covid has come along and taken away a lot of revenue. They are not so capable of repaying the debt, so their salary volume has to go down.
“That is the essential factor for most clubs. It is not because they were mismanaged earlier.”
Barcelona are eighth in La Liga under new coach Ronald Koeman, having won three of their opening seven games.
Much of the problems at the club have been blamed on Bartomeu, who as he left the club in October, said he had signed them up to a European Super League.
This claim has received no backing from elsewhere, as Tebas pointed out.
“It was a clandestine league for the 10 minutes after Bartomeu said they had joined,” he said.
“I feel sorry for Bartomeu. He said it but then no-one else said they were joining. This project is not viable financially for the clubs competing or the other clubs. It would really break the eco-system we have established.”
Tebas said he expected transfer spending to remain low in January, but added that the financial limitations being put in place across Spain’s top two divisions would make them healthier in the future.
Tebas said that, in reducing transfer spend by 66% to £392.6m, La Liga’s clubs were being “much more responsible than the other leagues”, citing the Premier League, whose clubs spent more than £1bn on new players.