“Lionel Messi loves Barça,” Laporta said in his first remarks to supporters, leaving little doubt that he considers cementing Messi’s future at the club his top priority. “We are a big family, a big club with the best player.”
Perhaps an even more important task, however, will be uniting a club once revered for elevating modern soccer into high art out of an era of infighting, dirty tricks and red ink. The series of unfolding crises have turned Barcelona from a model of commercial and sporting success into, at times, the punchline of a bad joke.
“We want the joy and happiness to be back in this club,” Laporta said, adding in a direct appeal to members, “The best thing you can do for Barça is to love it.”
Laporta’s predecessor, Josep Maria Bartomeu, resigned in October, just ahead of a vote to remove him. By then, more than 20,000 of Barcelona’s 140,000 members had turned in hand-signed forms seeking his ouster, and last week he was detained by the police as part of its investigation of the team’s internal affairs.