Former Camp Nou president Joan Laporta has revealed the motive behind increasing Lionel Messi’s buyout clause to €250m In 2006.
According to him, Inter Milan made a €150m (£131m) bid for Barcelona maestro which was the buyout clause then.
Messi made his debut for the Blaugrana in October 2004 and has gone on to become the heartbeat of the entire club, with many viewing him as the greatest player to have ever played the sport, but his career would have taken a very different path if a proposed move to the San Siro came to pass.
Laporta, who served Barcelona as president for seven years, understandably had no interest in selling the Argentinian teenager and assured Messi’s father that his son would enjoy greater success in Spain than he would in Italy.
Inter Milan’s monumental bid for the Barcelona superstar sparked Laporta and co into action; after receiving the offer, the Barca hierarchy raised Messi’s release clause to €250m (£218m) in order to ward off interest.
“It was 2006 when Inter made an offer,” Laporta told the Guardian. “They were prepared to pay the €150m (£131m) buyout clause, which is why we [later] raised it to €250m, but I always felt reassured by my relationship with his dad, Jorge.
“I told him: ‘They’ll have to pay the clause because I won’t sell. He’ll be happy here, he’ll get glory. There, he’ll only win financially. Your son’s destined to be the greatest in history and here he’ll have a team to help get there. He’ll enjoy it.’”
Messi is currently in talks over signing a new long-term contract with Barcelona. His present deal runs out at the end of next season but he is expected to his commit his future to the club he joined as a 13-year-old. Now 29, Messi is undoubtedly one of Barcelona’s greatest legends along with the likes of Johan Cruyff, but Laporta thinks his achievements have now seen him surpass the Dutchman, who sadly died last year.
“I’m very Cruyffista, but what Leo does – and I talked about this a lot with Johan – makes him the best in history,” Laporta added. “Johan said so too. Messi’s football is beautiful and effective. For me the best ever are Cruyff, Maradona and Messi. Leo’s a mix of Cruyff and Maradona but he is Leo Messi.”