The Citizen (KZN)

Nobody above La Liga brand

- Madrid

– La Liga president Javier Tebas (above) has said he was never seriously worried about the impact on the league if Lionel Messi had left Barcelona this summer.

Messi admitted defeat on Friday in his attempt to find a way out of Barca, insisting the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu had “broken his word” over an exit clause in his contract.

La Liga had previously intervened in the dispute by announcing Messi’s €700-million release clause still applied, a statement later rejected by Messi’s agent and father Jorge.

Asked if Messi’s departure had been a serious worry for him, Tebas said: “A serious worry, no. A worry, yes.

“We always want Leo to be with us, I’ve said many times he is the best player in history and as president of La Liga I would like him to finish his career in this competitio­n.

“La Liga has been working for quite a few years to ensure that as a brand it is above individual players and clubs so the value is not affected by one or two players.

“But there was some worry because after 20 years with us, you want him to be here and not in another league.”

Tebas also said Messi’s departure would not have affected La Liga’s income from broadcast rights deals. “I don’t think so because we have already sold 90% of the rights for the next four seasons, so I don’t think the departure of Messi would affect that issue,” he said.

The 2020/21 La Liga season begins on Friday, with Granada against Athletic Bilbao.

But last year’s top four, including reigning champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are all sitting out the opening weekend.

They have been given longer to recover after their involvemen­t in last season’s European competitio­ns.

Matches will still be without fans as Spain wrestles with a rise in coronaviru­s cases in recent weeks.

La Liga had hoped stadiums would be able to take a small percentage of their capacity in September but those plans have been shelved.

“It is a difficult question because it’s not up to La Liga. I believe that to see stadiums like before can only happen with a vaccine. I hope it can be in January or February,” said Tebas.

“Several government­s have already announced it and that would be the beginning of the end of this bad dream.” – AFP

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