'Barca need to keep Messi even after he retires' - Presidential candidate Font hopes Xavi can convince star to stay

Lionel Messi Barcelona 2020-21
The Argentine superstar came closer than ever to leaving the club over the summer, and the potential new president wants to avoid a repeat

One of the candidates in Barcelona’s upcoming presidential election says the club needs to ensure Lionel Messi stays not only in the short-term, but beyond his retirement as a player.

Messi shocked the football world when he tried to leave Camp Nou over the summer, and his public criticism of the club’s leadership was a key factor in former president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s resignation in October.

Victor Font is campaigning to replace Bartomeu and he is hoping his proposal to bring Xavi back to Barcelona as head coach will help keep hold of Messi.

"When you are lucky enough to have the best player in the world in your team, you need to retain that talent," Font said.

"If Messi goes to a competitor, we will not find an alternative easily as there is no alternative to Messi. So that's why retaining him in the short-term is critical.

"But for us the association between Messi and Barca is a strategic relationship and we want to make sure we create the right conditions for Messi to play a role in the club even after he retires. Messi could contribute plenty of ideas.

"Messi needs to be convinced we have a competitive and winning project and Xavi can play a decisive role in us doing that.

"Xavi's credibility and know-how about football is the right one to convince someone like Messi. They are friends, they know each other, they trust each other and that's going to be key."

Off the pitch, Barcelona’s financial struggles have been laid bare during the coronavirus pandemic.

The club’s debts are believed to be nearing €800 million (£724m/$950m), and Font is hopeful Messi would accept a pay cut in order to help Barca through the crisis.

"All clubs are in economic crisis [due to the pandemic] and everyone needs to adjust their expectations," he said.

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"The good thing with Messi is he loves the club as we all do and I'm sure he is ready to take a long-term perspective and make a contribution so the club can manage the short-term in the best possible way.

"When you have someone like Messi who loves the club and who the club wants to retain for many years, you have the framework to regenerate and build a winning team."

Barcelona's presidential election will take place on January 24, with Carlos Tusquets currently serving as interim president.