Barcelona president Joan Laporta has stated the club have “never bought referees or influence” following the revelation of payments to the former vice president of the refereeing committee.
Barca paid Jose Maria Enriquez Negreira’s company around €7 million between 2001 and 2018, with payments totalling €1.4m between 2016 and 2018 the subject of a tax office investigation into the ex-referee’s earnings.
Laporta previously explained the payments were for “technical reports on refereeing” and he reiterated on Tuesday that Barca were not paying for anything else.
“We will give a news conference on it soon,” the Barca chief said at an event. “But Barca have never bought referees nor influence. That was never the intention and that has to be clear. The facts contradict those that are trying to tell a different story.”
Laporta also stated he is considering renewing coach Xavi Hernandez’s contract at Camp Nou, but he refused to be drawn on commenting on a possible return for Lionel Messi following a recent meeting with the player’s father.
Xavi replaced Ronald Koeman as coach at the end of 2021 and guided Barca to a second-place finish after taking over when they were ninth. This season — his first full campaign in charge — they have won the Spanish Super Cup and are nine points clear of Real Madrid at the top of LaLiga, although they have been knocked out of the both Champions League and Europa League.
Laporta stated he hopes to extend Xavi’s contract, which expires in 2024, even if Barca now fail to win a first league title since 2019.
“I’ve already considered it, even if we don’t win LaLiga,” Laporta said when asked if he would renew Xavi’s deal. “I have said as much to Xavi, but he insists that if we don’t win LaLiga…
“[But] I want to send a message of stability. We have to renew his deal because of how we play, he knows the club, he defends the style… He understands the club’s situation and isn’t asking for crazy [signings].”
He also confirmed a recent meeting with Jorge Messi but stressed the main focus was to discuss paying homage to his son, who left Barca in 2021 due to the club’s financial problems.
“We saw each other,” Laporta said. “I congratulated him for Argentina [winning the World Cup]. We spoke about paying tribute to Leo, who has an extraordinary amount of affection for Barca.
“But I don’t want to speak about [Messi] anymore, he is playing for Paris Saint-Germain and we want to show respect. I don’t want to talk about if he could come back because he plays in Paris.”
Laporta said the club hope to be active in the transfer market in the summer despite LaLiga president Javier Tebas saying they are not able to make signings because they are exceeding their spending limit.
“We probably have to sign a full-back … a centre-back would depend on what opportunities come up,” Laporta said. “We know we are over our financial fair play limit, which limits us a lot.
“I hear [from Tebas’ comments] that we cannot sign players, but we will do all we can to strengthen. Possibly a forward as well. But players will have to leave. We have a great midfield, so I don’t think that area is essential, especially with the academy we have. We have to look internally and Xavi will do that.”