LaLiga president Javier Tebas insists his part in the battle to get Lionel Messi to stay at Barcelona was not personal and only about ensuring players respect contracts.
Messi last week announced he would remain at Camp Nou against his wishes to avoid a legal battle with the club.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner had previously stated his intention to Barca on a free transfer by exercising a clause in his contract at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Barca and LaLiga argued that option expired in June and any club wanting to acquire Messi’s services must pay his €700million release clause or negotiate a fee.
Messi’s representatives claimed the clause to leave for free was still active due to the season being extended by the coronavirus pandemic.
The impasse forced a U-turn from Messi but Tebas is adamant he would have taken the same stance with any player in the league.
“It wasn’t my battle with Messi. I would have done the same if it had been Pepito Perez or any other player in our league,” Tebas told Corriere della Sera.
“As a league we must defend the rules and promote justice: they must respect the contracts. Always. Whether you’re called Messi or Pepito Perez.
— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) September 7, 2020
“I personally don’t see it as a battle with Messi and his team. I’ve got a special appreciation for Leo, I love him and the history he’s created in our football over the past 20 years.
“How could I be at war with him? I repeat, my intervention was only so that contracts were respected. But it’s clear that with Leo being involved, the media turned it into a giant story.
“Although his lawyers say the opposite, the contract is clear. In the end, I’m happy Messi will avoid a legal battle. He’ll continue playing for the club of his dreams. I hope their relationship goes back to normal.”
Messi’s contract expires at the end of next season and asked about the possibility of him leaving following the 2020-21 campaign, Tebas replied: “That will be his decision. The contract allows that to happen.”
Serie A side Inter have been heavily linked with a move for Messi. On the possibility of a switch to the Italian top flight, Tebas added: “Italy is a great country and Serie A has a lot of room for growth, although Spain and LaLiga is a big pull. You can never say never.”
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