Barcelona President Josep Bartomeu said the club will not try to attract Brazilian star Neymar back to Paris Camp in Nou Saint Germain this summer, as Spanish giants count the cost of the coronavirus crisis.
Neymar has always been linked to a return to the club he left on a record transfer of € 222 million (US $ 260 million) in 2017, with Barcelona captain Lionel Messi reportedly among the biggest proponents of a meeting with his former strike partner.
But as Barcelona, which tends to spend a lot, faces the financial reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, the club’s president, Bartomeu, ruled out any measure to recover the 28-year-old Brazilian in the near future.
“In this situation, it is not viable,” said the Barça boss in a broad interview with Sport.
“PSG also doesn’t want to sell him, which is normal, because he is one of the best players in the world. Last summer, we tried hard, but this summer there will be no attempt.
“The situation is as follows: the club lost 200 million euros between March and June. And in the 2020/2021 season, we expected to raise 1.1 billion euros [revenues], but we will certainly have 30% less.
“If the situation of the pandemic does not improve, there will be no crowd, museum, shops and money will continue to be lost. This forces us to be very strict in our administration, we have to review which investments are essential and which You can adapt to.”
Bartomeu also confirmed that a decision by Argentine striker Lautaro Martinez, of Inter Milan, was “suspended by mutual consent”, adding that “the current situation does not allow large transfer rates”.
The news is unlikely to happen well with Messi, who expressed his anger at his performances after Barcelona recently dropped out of the La Liga title for Real Madrid.
Messi has been seen as one of the most eager supporters of a deal to bring Neymar back, and is also considered a fan of Argentine teammate Lautaro.
Talking about the besieged manager Quique Setien, who took over from Ernesto Valverde, who was dismissed in January, but supervised a short break in the season, which allowed Real to overcome a two-point gap at the top of the table and win the title, Bartomeu said that the club never considered firing its new coach – also insisting that he would be at the Camp Nou shelter next season.
“He is under contract. When we signed him, we explained that it was a project for this season and the next. Judging a coach for a few months, in the middle of a pandemic, is very complicated. [midfielder] Arturo Vidal said the same thing: they had very little time to meet and work together “, said Bartomeu.
“In no time (we thought about firing Setien). I know there were reports and they said that if he didn’t win in the next two matches we would replace him, but we never talked about it … Setien is our coach.”
The decline of Barcelona’s fortunes on the pitch coincided with the turmoil, including a bitter public feud between Messi and sporting director Eric Abidal, as well as the unrest in the boardroom that saw bosses embarrassingly having to deny claims that they had undertaken a social media campaign to undermine the reputation of critics linked to the club, including Messi.
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This further fueled the idea that Messi could be leaving the club when the current contract expires next summer, with Inter Milan among the alleged suitors.
Bartomeu again dismissed this notion, saying: “Messi has always said he wants to end his professional experience at Barça.
“Although his contract expires in 2021, Leo will have another three or four years of top-level football.
“I have no doubt that he will keep his word and see his career in Barcelona.”
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Barcelona have a chance to save their season by hosting Napoli in the second leg of the Champions League last August 16, on August 8, with a 1-1 draw in the first leg.
Napoli won the quarter-finals of one leg against Chelsea or Bayern Munich, with the Germans firmly controlling the draw in the last 16 games after a 3-0 win in the first leg in London.