Messi votes as Laporta becomes Barcelona President

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Joan Laporta was elected FC Barcelona president for a second time on Sunday as club members voted him in to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The 58-year-old Laporta beat Victor Font and Toni Freixa to become the club’s president for a second time.

He was previously in charge between 2003 and 2010.

Laporta won 30,184 votes, Font 16,679 and Freixa 4,769 from a total of 55,611 lodged by the club’s members.

“Let’s go to Paris and see if we can turn it around,” said Laporta as he celebrated his victory at Camp Nou, referring to FC Barcelona’s UEFA Champions League last 16-second leg clash with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) on Wednesday.

Bartomeu stepped down from the role in October 2020 as he faced a vote of no confidence from club members, with elections called for January.

But the elections were postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Laporta inherits the club with gross debt of around 1.2 billion euros (1.4 billion dollars).

And this has come ahead of Lionel Messi’s contract expiring in the summer, meaning the star player can walk away for free.

In his victory speech, Laporta picked up on Messi showing up to vote earlier in the day. “Seeing Leo, the best player in the world, come to vote with his son is for me a sign of what we have said all along,” Laporta said.

“Leo loves Barca and knows that we are a big family. Hopefully that can help us encourage him to stay.”

The 33-year-old Messi voted in the election, along with teammates which included Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Riqui Puig, while former president Bartomeu also voted to choose his successor.

Bartomeu was detained by police earlier this week as part of an investigation into the “Barcagate” social media scandal, relating to a company hired to monitor the club’s online presence

A change of regime also leaves coach Ronald Koeman’s position uncertain, with Laporta insisting the Dutchman “deserves respect” for his work this season while maintaining his future will depend on results.

Koeman’s contract runs until 2022.