Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu says he is confident of retaining all of the club’s key stars despite acknowledging that the money in the Premier League is an issue for the European champions.
Bartomeu said players including Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suarez, Sergio Busquets and Gerard Pique would be able to earn more if they were to move to England, but said even Manchester City — who will be managed by ex-Barca boss Pep Guardiola from next season — would not be able to tempt them away.
In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, Bartomeu joked that “the weather” would be enough of a reason for players to opt to remain at the Camp Nou if offered the chance to play at the Etihad Stadium.
“We know Messi could earn more money in other teams, or Neymar, Busquets, Gerard Pique or Luis Suarez,” Bartomeu said.
“Neymar, for example, when he came to Barcelona, had better offers from other teams. Suarez also had better offers, but they decided to come to Barcelona because I think this club attracts players, because we are more than a club.”
He cited the club’s charity work, which he said
“creates an atmosphere that we are not only a football club.”
He added: “We are confident because we know our players are very happy in our club, in our city. They enjoy sport, their profession, and they are in a group. So we are very confident those players are not moving, taking decisions because of money.”
Bartomeu stressed that there was no problem with contracts, despite Messi and Neymar’s deals expiring in 2018.
“All of our players are in a moment where we renew their contracts, we extend their contracts,” he said. “Right now I don’t see that any of our players have to leave next summer.
“I cannot tell you if we have done it or not done it, but as a member of the board we are responsible people. We know what is best for our club. When something is done, we will announce it.”
Messi, who a little over a year ago made several ambiguous statements over his future, now appears firmly committed to playing out the remainder of his top-level career at Barca.
“Messi said a few days ago, ‘Barcelona will be the only European club that I play for,’ so if someone is interested in Messi, forget it,” Bartomeu said. “He said this. I didn’t say it. He said this.”
Even so, he recognises that the new Premier League TV contract for 2016-19, which has increased by 70 percent to over £5 billion, is a potential problem.
“When people ask me who is our rival, I always say, ‘It’s the Premier League,'” he said. “The TV deal, the organisation of the competition, the fact they have interesting matches permanently, that the league is very equal. Everything. The TV rights is a consequence of doing things correctly in past years.”
It’s going to be an interesting summer at the Camp Nou. Barcelona have a huge wage bill that is unsustainable. Yet they must also figure out how to redo new deals for Messi and Neymar while bringing their overall wage bill, as a percent of revenue, down. I am not sure how they do that.
Also, if Barca become the first club to win back-to-back Champions League’s, will players look to the Premier League for a new challenge? They have all won everything they can at Barcelona multiple times. Would that prompt some of them to look towards the Premier League where they can make a lot more money than they can in Spain?
I don’t think we will see a mass exodus of Barcelona players to England this summer, but I would not be surprised to see two or three move to England.