BarcelonaNasser al-Khelaïfi and Sheikh Al Thani wanted to take advantage of the hype. The Franco-Qatari apparatus that controls Paris Saint-Germain acted quickly, in the midst of a hangover from the triumph of the Argentine national team in the World Cup that was held between November and December in the Arab emirate, and achieved the Leo Messi’s willingness to stay at least one more year at Parc dels Prínceps, the stadium that hosted him after Barça renounced his continuity.
At the end of 2022 the Argentine star, top scorer in the World Cup, was already quite clear that he wanted to continue competing at the highest European level, which stopped the North American route of Inter Miami, so he agreed to start negotiations to renew with PSG beyond June 30, 2023. The Parisian offer, continuing, would arrive later, but three months have already passed and it has not yet crystallized, among other things, because from around the player express some doubts about the sporting project of an entity incapable of the Champions League and with a confused horizon due to the efforts of its ownership in opening business avenues in the Premier League with Manchester United. The plot music sounds like past fatigues. “There has been no project or anything for a long time, they are juggling,” criticized Messi shortly after sending the famous burofax to Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020. The speech is familiar.
PSG’s renewal proposal remains valid and is the only firm one that the 10 has on the table. But, apart from the doubts that hang over the Gallic capital, if he has not accepted and signed it is also because there have been significant moves in Barcelona to restore his relationship with the current president of Barça, Joan Laporta, the the same one who resigned in August 2021 to let him go and with whom, for this reason, he was disappointed. The person responsible for cementing the link does not appear in photos or attend board meetings, but he has more weight in the day-to-day management of Arístides Maillol than any Barça manager other than Laporta himself. It’s Alejandro Echevarría, whom the president presents as his “brother-in-law” even though technically he is no longer one – he separated from his sister Constanza many years ago.
That Laporta defines Echevarría as a “fundamental person to lead Barça” is supported by facts relating to several areas. In the electoral campaign, he helped the current president to form his candidacy and to structure the endorsement that the elected board brought so badly before taking office. Already in office, he has asked for help mainly in security matters. Echevarría, who runs a consultancy in the upper part of Barcelona, has frequent contact with Xavier Porcuna – the ex-mosso who is on the professional organizational chart of Barça -, had a voice in Barna Porters winning the competition for access control and the microphones in certain rooms of the offices and recommended a change of profile in the security of the first team.
On the sports side, Echevarría was key so that Xavi Hernández, with whom he has a great personal relationship, stopped having the manager’s veto to occupy the bench of the first team. He also intervened in the entry and exit operations of Aubameyang, one of the signings that have offered the best performance in recent months, and in the incorporation of Raphinha Dias, a footballer represented by Deco, with whom he has maintained friendship since coincide at Barça at the beginning of the century: one as a manager and the other as a player.
In fact, Echevarría left the board in October 2005 after his association with the Francisco Franco Foundation was over, but he did not stop influencing both the offices and the dressing room. From this achieving spirit was also born his ascendant over Messi, whom he protected and advised in his first steps as a professional. Now, seventeen years later, he has not spared Vaseline so that the Argentine and Laporta could recover an affinity without which the possibility of repairing the tears of 2021 with a “tribute” at the height of the myth could not be considered in any way.
The “tribute” formula to avoid generating expectations with Messi
Yes, a “tribute”. This is the euphemistic form that Laporta uses and that hides the true intention of the president, which is none other than to recover Messi as a player this summer, when he will be 36 years old. With no guarantee to pick him up, and with Echevarría as an indispensable figure in contact with the Argentine and his family, the leader is looking at formulas to make a return come true that few cultivators would dare to oppose head-on. The player is in direct contact with former dressing room mates to discuss this possibility (Busquets is waiting for it) and also talks about it with Xavi, who does not hide his devotion to him in the press conferences. Meanwhile, in the financial departments of the entity, where the operational hole continues to be the daily bread, they make calculations to see if the “tribute” could be self-financed only with the impact it would generate.
The League, body validating the accounts of Spanish clubs and judge of the famous fair play financier, is attentive to the operation. “Hopefully he will return to Barça, but it does not depend on the League that he returns, but on Barça itself. We will not change the rules for Messi to return. However, it is likely that he could do it with a lower salary, since he is in the final stretch of his career,” says Javier Tebas, the president of the employers’ association, who continues to say that the club is overpaid in terms of wages and, therefore, forced to release tokens and sign income in order to be able to consider not only the hypothetical return of Messi, but the registration of the new contracts of Gavi, Araujo, Marcos Alonso and Sergi Roberto.
But at the Camp Nou they have hopes of another way to gain a salary margin: the lawsuit in commercial court number 7 of Barcelona to force Tebas to recognize 90 million corresponding to the agreement with Sixth Street. In the event of a favorable resolution (the first verdict will be “very well in June”, Blaugrana sources tell ARA), the oxygen balloon will be huge and expectations of success will increase. By those dates, by the way, UEFA will decide on the Negreira case. And if participation in the 23-24 Champions League is at risk, the bubble will automatically pop.