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Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said that he hoped Lionel Messi would stay at Barcelona by agreeing to “play for free”.

The Argentine attacker, one of the greatest players of all-time, left Barcelona for Paris Saint-Germain this summer.

Speaking to Spanish radio station ESports RAC1, Laporta said: “I love him too much to be angry. But there comes a time when you see that things just cannot happen, and there was disappointment on both sides.

“There was a desire for him to stay, but pressure because of the offer he had. He knew that he’d go to PSG if he didn’t stay.

“He’ll go down as the best player in the history of Barcelona and I want that to be preserved. Everything indicates that he had the PSG offer before leaving Barcelona. We knew he had a big offer.

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“What I did hope was that he would have a change of heart, that he’d say: ‘I’ll play for free’. My understanding is that La Liga would have accepted it, but we couldn’t ask a player of Messi’s stature to do that.”

This would have been an unprecedented move. Messi’s previous contract saw him earn around €40 million per season, which contributed significantly to Barcelona’s current financial issues.

On Wednesday, chief executive Ferran Reverter revealed that the club were “technically bankrupt” earlier this year.

They made a loss of €481 million in the last financial year, and have debts and future liabilities of €1.35 billion.

Matters are not much better on the pitch. Ronald Koeman is under growing pressure, with his team sat ninth in the table. They are behind clubs such as Osasuna and Rayo Vallecano.

Barcelona also endured their worst ever start to a Champions League campaign, losing both of their opening two games 3-0, against Bayern Munich and Benfica.

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