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Exclusive: Barcelona sporting director talks Messi exit, Haaland, Xavi, Spotify deal

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Photo by JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

Barcelona sporting director Mateu Alemany was in attendance at the LSE Sports Business conference on Friday and spoke about various topics ranging from the club’s current situation to Xavi Hernandez’s impact and Lionel Messi’s departure.

Barça Universal was present at the event and was able to cover the interview as Alemany answered questions regarding a host of other subjects apart from the ones mentioned earlier.

Speaking of the demands of his job as a sporting director, he said: “Football is a 24 hour job. I suffer a lot on Sundays. You have to be focused and working.”

Alemany then discussed the controversial European Super League project, saying: “I think that football is going to the North American path. FIFA and UEFA have to find the right balance between top and amateur clubs in the formats. The people don’t understand the Super League as a project, but it’s the top clubs telling UEFA to count on them.”

There has been a lot of talk about how Financial Fair Play rules are applied differently to different clubs, with PSG believed to be enjoying a favourable treatment from the governing bodies. Touching on the subject, Alemany said:

“It is extremely important to REALLY implement financial fair play to clubs in Europe. In Spain, it’s very tough and strict. But in Europe, there are teams who clearly don’t have the same criteria as us. I ask for a standardized rule that everyone can follow.”

The Barcelona sporting director also opened up on the departure of Lionel Messi from the club last summer, saying it was the reality of the situation.

“Leo Messi’s departure unfortunately wasn’t a surprise. It was the reality at the time. The only way for him to stay was for Barça to join something that we didn’t want to join. We decided that the club was above anyone else. We have lost a lot commercially.”

Further explaining the impact of Messi’s departure from the club, Alemany said:

“With Messi’s departure, it is clear that we lost a lot of commercial interest because he was an extremely important asset within the club. Also in the sporting aspect, considering the player he is. However, he had to leave sooner or later. We have entered the rebuilding process, and it had to be done.”

Lionel Messi left Barcelona for PSG last summer (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)
Lionel Messi left Barcelona for PSG last summer (Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images)

Addressing the sponsorship and stadium naming rights agreement with Spotify, Alemany said: “We have ongoing negotiations with Spotify, but I can’t say anything until the deal is actually signed.”

He also spoke about Xavi Hernandez’s role and impact after taking over as the manager of the first team last November.

“Xavi is doing very well in his first months. We’re very happy with his work. Every time we sign players, it depends on the manager. Xavi was crucial regarding the decisions to bring in the winter signings,” he said.

As for the team’s objectives for the season, he added: “With this squad, I do not contemplate not qualifying to next season’s Champions League. It would be a disaster.”

Alemany also spoke about Ansu Fati’s injury-riddled campaign and backed the youngster to bounce back strongly.

“I’m sure that Ansu Fati will be very important for Barcelona. Like any other one going through a difficult moment, the club is here for him. His entourage and family are very nice, and I’m sure that they’re supporting him too,” he claimed.

When quizzed if Barcelona would be able to sign Erling Haaland in the summer, Alemany replied:

“I can’t speak on names. The only thing I can say is that FC Barcelona continues to be one of the best clubs in the world and we always aim to have the most competitive squad. We’re working on that.”

Alemany was also asked about the prospect of selling players due to the financial situation at the club.

In reply, he said: “If we have to sell any players due to financial problems, the La Masia players would be the last options we would contemplate. They are the future of our club and It’s not in our plans.”

Explaining the key to negotiations in the game of football and the transfer market, the sporting director said: “Working hard. You have to analyze each situation. Hiring a footballer is different than hiring any other kind of employee. You have to take a lot into consideration, fair play for example. It’s very complex.”

Alemany also let on that Big Data is something that the club lean on in the scouting department. “Big data is totally integrated in the club’s scouting department. It’s a very powerful tool that we count on.”

When asked if Barcelona would consider hosting other sporting events at Camp Nou, he said: “The new stadium will be prepared for it, sure.”

Barça handed Samuel Umtiti a downward renewal in January which helped them create space on the wage bill, which allowed the team to register Ferran Torres successfully.

Elaborating on that situation, Alemany said: “Ideally, the club wanted to sell the player. But we found the best solution for all parties.”

Alemany also stressed the importance that Barcelona were giving to women’s football, stating: “Women’s football is a growing market and we’re working hard to promote it.”

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