La Liga president Javier Tebas insisted yesterday that he was never “seriously worried” that Lionel Messi would leave Barcelona as the Spanish league has been preparing for an era without the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
“I was worried but not seriously worried. Obviously we want Messi to be with us because I’ve always said he’s probably the best player in the history of football,” said Tebas in the La Liga Kick-off 20-21 event, which was streamed live on YouTube. “But we’ve been working for many years on the fact that La Liga’s brand has to be above individual players and clubs.”
This comes as Messi said last week that he will remain at Barca for another year after initially announcing that he wanted to leave.
La Liga then released a statement on Aug 30 saying that his contract was still valid and the only way he could leave was if a club triggered the €700 million (S$1.13 billion) release clause, days after his shock announcement and hours after he failed to attend a pre-season medical test.
Messi yesterday reported for club training for the first time since handing in the transfer request. But the possibility of the Argentinian leaving next year may force Spanish clubs to look for new marquee players, such as Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix, 20, and Barcelona’s Ansu Fati, 17.
Tebas added: “Ansu Fati started from the bottom in the (La Masia) academy. If he continues what he’s doing, like what we’ve seen so far… He had a great match (on Sunday with Spain) and I think he’s brilliant and got good feet.”
Fati, nicknamed the “jewel of La Masia”, became his country’s youngest scorer when he netted in their 4-0 victory over Ukraine in the Nations League.
He made his Barcelona senior debut in August last year and has seven goals in 24 appearances.
Besides still getting to see Messi in a Barca shirt, La Liga fans can also look forward to a more immersive viewing experience with the use of augmented reality. Graphics such as player profiles and statistics, including success rates of free kicks and penalty kicks, will be shown in real-time during matches.
The new La Liga season kicks off on Friday.