Barcelona legend Hristo Stoichkov has hit out at his former club over the departure of captain Lionel Messi who has joined French club Paris Saint-Germain on a free transfer.
Messi had been expected to stay at the Camp Nou and sign a new contract but has moved on after the Catalans confirmed he could not stay on “because of financial and structural obstacles.”
Stoichkov told TUDN he was saddened to see Messi goes and took aim at president Joan Laporta for his role in the Argentine’s exit, as reported by Diario AS.
“It touched my heart when Leo gave my children t-shirts, when my granddaughter was born he also gave her a t-shirt. I have things about him in my house, in my museum,” he said. “Seeing him now with this image, with another shirt, is different. I see it is very strange that people who promised, people who touched their hearts … ‘I am going to make it possible’, ‘I want to’, ‘I am’, but in the end the lie has become very big.”
Laporta insisted several times that “everything was on track” with Messi’s renewal during the off-season and also said before he was elected for a second time in March that would do “everything possible” to ensure the forward stayed at the Camp Nou.
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Laporta Under Scrutiny
The Barcelona president has come under scrutiny for his role in Messi’s exit, particularly after the 34-year-old told a farewell press conference he had wanted to stay at the club and did everything he could to continue, as reported by The Guardian.
Messi went on holiday after winning the Copa America “confident everything would be resolved and came back convinced that all that was missing was his signature,” according to Guillem Balague for BBC Sport.
The Argentine now “feels betrayed” by Laporta and the coldness between the two men was evident when the pair were spotted indulging in the briefest of handshakes before Messi’s goodbye press conference at the Camp Nou.
Stoichkov ‘Will Always’ Respect Messi
Meanwhile, Stoichkov has also insisted he will “always respect” Messi despite his departure for PSG. The 55-year-old admitted it will be difficult to see the Argentine playing for another club but he will never forget the times they have shared together.
“This image is very strange. It is difficult, but life is like that. Wherever I go I will always respect him for everything he has done for Barcelona, everything he has done for the people, for the children … I’ve been very lucky to have him there. It’s difficult, ” he added. “I met him when he was 12-13 years old, I went in the afternoons to see him train. A child like today. Humble, calm, always respected … I had to live important things with him, so many awards galas. We shared many times together and these are images that remain with me for a lifetime.”
Messi trained with PSG for the first time on Friday but is not expected to make his debut until later in August. The Argentine missed all of Barca’s pre-season after taking a break following his exploits at the Copa America.