Lionel Lionel Messi admits he feels ‘weird things’ are happening at Barcelona after club chief Josep Bartomeu was accused of hiring social media firm to criticize him and other top Barca players
He admits he sees ‘weird things happening’ at Barcelona after the club president was forced to deny accusations of unethical social media practices.
A Spanish radio station claimed the LaLiga champions hired a social media firm to criticise key figures associated with the Catalonia side in a bid to protect president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s reputation.
It was suggested I3 Ventures had been hired to publish stories that damaged the image of several players and ex-players, after they had criticised Bartomeu.
Barcelona denied any wrongdoing in a statement on Monday night, with Bartomeu adding on the club website on Tuesday: ‘In (the) first place, and so that no one is left in any doubt, Barca has not contracted any services to disparage neither players, nor politicians, nor former presidents. It is completely false.
‘We will defend ourselves wherever necessary via all means at our disposal against anyone who accuses (us) of such practices.’
While admitting they had worked with the company, Barcelona have denied all suggestions that they have acted against the club’s players.
BARCELONA STATEMENT IN FULL
Following the information released today about hiring a company dedicated to creating opinions on social networks to erode the image of third parties directly or indirectly related to the Club, FC Barcelona:
1. strongly denies any relationship and, even more so, the contracting of services linked to social network accounts that have spread negative or disparaging messages in relation to any person, entity or organisation that has or has had a relationship with the Club.
2. I3 Ventures, contracted by the Club, has no link to these accounts and, if any type of relationship is shown to exist, the Club would immediately terminate its contractual relationship and take appropriate legal action in defense of its legitimate interests.
3. FC Barcelona confirms that it has contracted social network monitoring services in order to be aware of both positive and negative messages.
4. The hiring of these services is to ensure the protection and preservation of the club’s reputation, as well as those linked to the Club.
5. The Club requires the immediate rectification of the information disseminated and reserves the right to take appropriate legal action against those who continue to involve the Club in this type of practice.
Messi, in an interview with Catalan sports publication Mundo Deportivoas reported by L’Equipe, says he will wait to see if there is any truth in the accusations after Bartomeu’s statement.
‘I was a little surprised because I was not present, I was travelling,’ Messi said.
‘When I arrived, I discovered it all bit by bit. The president told us the same things he said in public, the same things he said at a press conference: what was the situation, what had happened. And I cannot say more.
‘The truth is that I see weird things happening. But it was also said that there would be evidence. We will have to wait to see if it is true or not. We can’t say much and we have to wait and see what happens. Frankly, the subject seems strange to me.’
The social media row comes just a few weeks after Messi spoke out against sporting director Eric Abidal who had suggested the players did not work hard enough under former manager Ernesto Valverde.
Valverde was sacked in January, with Quique Setien brought in as manager until the end of the season.
That brought about doubts over the 32-year-old’s future at the Nou Camp but Messi expressed his happiness in the city.
‘I love Barcelona although I miss Rosario very much,’ he added. ‘This is my house, I was here longer than in Argentina. I love Barcelona, the place where I live, Castelldefels, and I live a life that I like very much.’