A high-level executive at Barcelona is out of a job after he suggested maybe Lionel Messi isn’t worth all the hype. Hours after Pere Gratacos, Barcelona’s director of sports institutional relations, implied Messi wouldn’t be as good without his teammates, the club announced he was being relieved of his main role.
“Leo is one of the most important people in the team, but it’s not just about him,” Gratacos said after Friday’s Copa del Rey draw in Madrid. “He would not be as good without [Andres] Iniesta, Neymar and company, but Messi is the best.”
The club quickly issued a statement later Friday announcing Gratacos has been “dismissed” from his position “for having publicly expressed a personal opinion that does not coincide with that” of the club. Gratacos will continue to be involved with Barcelona though “developing the rest of the tasks already under the Masia 360 project,” the statement said.
The reason Gratacos’ comments were so problematic is simple: Barcelona are in the middle of contract negotiations with Messi and have repeatedly made it clear they desperately want Messi to stay after his contract expires in 2018. But Messi has yet to commit and rumors have swirled he could leave, with some suggesting he wants to finish his career at his boyhood club, Newell’s Old Boys.
So when Gratacos suggested the club doesn’t need Messi, it caused quite a stir and sparked concerns the club might fail to secure the star’s future. Club president Josep Maria Bartomeu last month said the Catalan giants were prepared to make Messi the highest-paid player in the world if he extends his contract.
For now, it looks like the “will he or won’t he renew” drama surrounding Messi’s contract lives on.