Laporta back as president at embattled Barcelona

·1 min read

MADRID — The president of Barcelona when Lionel Messi began playing in Spain will also be in charge when the club tries to convince the star to stay.

Joan Laporta was elected Barcelona president again on Sunday, inheriting a club in crisis and facing daunting problems that include a huge debt and the possible departure of Messi when his contract finishes at the end of the season.

Laporta defeated businessman Víctor Font and longtime board member Toni Freixa, the other two candidates who were among the more than 110,000 members eligible to vote. The election was held just days after the club’s last elected president — Josep Maria Bartomeu — spent a night in jail while Catalan police investigated possible irregularities during his administration.

The election, which was postponed from January because of the coronavirus pandemic, caps a week in which the club made worldwide headlines after a police raid at the team's headquarters led to arrests and further embarrassment for an institution that has long prided itself as “more than a club.”

The police investigation was related to the so-called “Barçagate,” which involved allegations that the former executive board hired an internet services company to spread negative messages about its own players and opponents on social media to boost the image of senior club officials.

Laporta, who has a five-year term, was the team’s president between 2003-2010, during Messi’s breakout seasons. Laporta has said all along during his campaign that he was the best candidate to convince the playmaker to stay.

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Tales Azzoni, The Associated Press