Laporta talks Messi, Ronaldo, Bernardo, Chelsea, de Jong, Gary Neville and Barcelona’s window

It has been a summer to remember for Barcelona following the transfer business they have conducted. Having endured a difficult season last time out, it was always going to be vital that the Catalans get it right in the window, and so far, they have.

Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen, Raphinha, Robert Lewandowski and Jules Kounde have all been brought in to reinforce the squad and take the team to the next level. And business is not done yet, with more incomings expected, most likely in the full-back department.

Naturally, club president Joan Laporta is excited about what lies ahead after a strong transfer window. And he spoke about the club’s plans and objectives, along with various other topics, during an interview with CBS Sports, while on the pre-season tour to the US.

On new signings

“I think we have shown on the US tour, and with our Clasico win, we are competitive and the fans are excited by that. That game in Las Vegas was unofficial but there are really no friendlies between Barcelona and Real Madrid. And what was important was not just that we won but the style we played in doing so.

“For us, it’s about having the same philosophy as during many other periods of success during our history. We have improved with new signings like Lewandowski, Christensen, Kessie, Kounde and Raphinha and there are probably still some more to come.”

On Lionel Messi’s return

“I did what I had to do in order to put the institution above the best player in our history. I have known Messi since he was a kid and I love Leo. I feel in moral debt to Messi. He’s the best player in our history and I will do my best in order to ensure he can have the best ending of his career with a Barça shirt on.

“I would like to bring him back. It will not be easy but I think with the correct strategy we could do it. I think Messi has been the most important player in our history.

“During a long period of success, he was the leader. He was the one who excited our supporters. We will do our best to have Messi ending his career at Barcelona and being applauded by everyone.”

“We have a strategy to get Messi back to Barcelona. Barça loves Leo, the fans love Leo and I love him, too. I will do my best.”

On being offered Cristiano Ronaldo

“Well, this type of story is all within the process of the summer window. There always appears a lot of news. But in the end, the truth is we wanted Lewandowski. We have a very good relationship with Jorge Mendes. I have known him for a long time. He is one of the best player agents. He knows how to do his job and I respect him.

“In this case, we decided to go for Lewandowski and knew he was crucial to our success. So we went to Bayern instead. This is the reality. The other [Ronaldo] topic is just part of the ‘little history’ of football. It is a very nice story, but you will always hear lots of contradictory news about it.”

Cristiano Ronaldo had been offered to Barcelona this summer (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)

“Ronaldo is a very good professional and he’s still so fit. He’s a player who is very ambitious and competitive and I’m sure he has a lot of options. He’s still a player of Manchester United, an extraordinary club who I respect very much. His future is not my business. It’s the business of Manchester United and Cristiano.”

On Bernardo Silva

“He is a very good player. I have to respect, though, that he belongs to Manchester City. I have some friends there, like Pep Guardiola, Txiki Bergstein and Khaldoon Al Mubarak. There are a lot of people I know.”

On Player Registration

“With La Liga, nobody knows. But we are trying to do things with full respect for the rules. Sometimes there are different interpretations. We will see what happens. But we have put in huge effort to increase our revenue.

“We have brought in over €600 million in around 45 days. I think La Liga will understand our effort and our intent to follow the rules and I hope there won’t be any problems.”

On Frenkie de Jong

“The first thing to say is that we want Frenkie to stay at Barcelona. We love the player and him as a human being. I want him to stay at Barcelona. He’s a high-quality player and a good guy. I also know that he wants to stay.

On de Jong’s salary situation: “All we are doing with Frenkie is the same as the rest of the squad. The signings coming in have adjusted their salary to the new structure. But Frenkie has a contract and we respect that. We can’t force him to take a pay cut. It’s his decision.

“We are trying to manage the football club in a prudent and sustainable way. So we have to have these talks and we will do so in a calm and considerate way. We have explained the situation and are grateful to any players who can help us.

“It was the same with Dembele and I am very grateful to him. And after months of talks, he accepted a renegotiation of his salary and he can be proud of his decision.”

Frenkie de Jong’s future has been a major talking point this summer (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

On what happens if de Jong does not take a pay cut: “Then he will continue. I have a contract. We will respect that decision. For us, he’s a Barcelona player. We count on him.”

On whether de Jong’s move to Manchester United is off: “In football, you never know. I can’t say categorically. It all depends on the different parties. But in principle, I can say there is a strong possibility he stays, and I can say as president I will do my best for him to stay at Barcelona.”

On whether de Jong was offered to Chelsea owner Todd Boehly: “No, no, no. We had a very nice dinner in Barcelona and we talked in general about football. He is a very successful businessman.”

On Gary Neville’s comments on the de Jong situation

“No answer. I respect his opinion. But in my opinion he’s not right because I insist we are respecting all our players. We follow the contracts. If we invest in new players it’s to make the club more competitive. It’s a circle.”

On asking players for pay cuts

“The club has a payroll that’s 40% higher than our competitors. We have to reduce this and it’s not easy. But the players who have taken pay cuts, all love Barça. They reduced their salaries for the love of the club.”

On whether it is right to spend money on new players instead of paying deferred salaries: “I respect any opinion, but when people form this view they often don’t have enough information. Also, the players we have signed this summer are investments not expenses.

“People outside the club don’t have all the information. We have to act this way or the club will probably disappear. We are not risking the club. On the contrary. I love Barcelona. So you can imagine, I don’t take any decisions that risk the future of the club.”

“I am here to protect Barcelona. It will be very difficult for anyone to damage the club with me as president here.”

On Chelsea

“We have a good relationship and we respect our opponents. Chelsea’s [minority] owner Todd Boehly is an extraordinary person…

“We have had the necessity to be active in the transfer market in order to improve our squad. And it just so happens some of the players they wanted, we did too. Those players wanted to come to Barcelona because they believe in our project, history, style and coach. Xavi is important.”

On Jules Kounde transfer race: “The player preferred Barcelona because he understood we have a consistent project with a coach he likes. And in this case, we had an advantage compared to our competitor.

“This was thanks to the good job that Mateu Alemany did. He and Jordi Cruyff performed miracles last summer and are doing an excellent job again. The player also helped us in this specific deal.”

On the battle for Raphinha: “It was the same. Not only did he wait for us, but in terms of salary, he (like other players) accepted the new wage structure. We are very grateful and I think players who do this will be proud of their decision and enjoy Barcelona.”

On Azpilicueta and Alonso’s chances of arrival: “They are under contract at Chelsea and we respect this as well as the new owner. I don’t want to talk about players who belong to other teams.

“I respect Cesar and Marcos as footballers. They are very, very good players. They show their quality and talent at Chelsea. But I don’t want to talk about them as a matter of respect for Chelsea.”

On Barcelona’s financial situation

“We had to get out of the hospital. A year ago, it was practically Chapter 11. We had to work very hard to revert the finances and avoid bankruptcy. I can say with pride that we did it.

“One year later, we are in positive equity. That’s very important. This season, we have €1 billion in revenues and €124 million in profits. That means we are getting better and better.

“And now we have sold the 25% of our La Liga TV rights for 25 years. Honestly, I didn’t want to do it, but I had to do it in order to save the club.

“I would like to thank Sixth Street because we reached a very good deal for both parties. We had higher offers but this was the right one for us. And we have enough now, under Financial Fair Play, to buy players again.”

On Spotify deal

“We are excited by the strategic partnership with Spotify. Two global brands are able to engage, who are both leaders, and we are sharing philosophy and values. Also, this has never been seen before — a partnership that unites football and music, sports and entertainment.

“It has huge potential. When I arrived one year ago, Barça were in a very difficult situation. But thanks to the work that all of us are doing, now we are out of the hospital. Now we are healthy again and are ready to compete.”

On Barcelona’s presence in the US market

“The US is an interesting territory for Barcelona. It’s very important for our global growth plans. There are some links between Barcelona and the States that are very nice. We are committed to this country. I’ll tell you why. It is the 13th time that Barça has come to the United States for a summer tour.”

On expectations for the new season

“I believe we will compete for LaLiga and the Champions League. We are a stakeholder in these competitions and we will be trying to win both. I hope we have a chance. But we’ll see. But I am sure we will show our genuine style of playing football that fans love. They will be very proud of us this season.”

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