Joan Laporta has won the race to become Barcelona's new president, with the 58-year-old seeing off competition from Victor Font and Antoni Freixa.

Laporta, who held the post from 2003 to 2010, was the favourite to come out on top in Sunday's election, and those predictions proved correct.

An exit poll conducted by Catalan television station TV3 projected Laporta to succeed with 58.3 per cent of the vote over Font (31.3) and Freixa (9.3).

The final figures were not too far off – Laporta claiming 54.28 per cent of the vote (30,184 votes). In total, there were 51,983 valid votes.

Lionel Messi and fellow first-team stars Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba were among members to cast their vote to determine the successor to Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down last October, days before a planned vote of no confidence against his board.

Interim president Carlos Tusquets has had a difficult few months, with Messi, who publically criticised Barca's hierarchy under Bartomeu, still yet to decide on his future, while Ronald Koeman's team trail Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and are 4-1 down in their Champions League last-16 tie with Paris Saint-Germain.

The vote was scheduled to take place on January 24, yet a spike in COVID-19 cases in Spain pushed the election back six weeks.

As well as this delay, Barca's concerns have been compounded by official debt levels of over €1billion and a legal investigation that involves Bartomeu, who was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business on March 3.

However, Barca fans will now be hoping Laporta, who oversaw one of the club's most successful periods which saw them win 12 major trophies, including their first treble under Pep Guardiola, can turn the Blaugrana's fortunes around.

Laporta has pledged to focus on "social and human" results, while also promising to restore La Masia – the club's famed academy – as a major contributor to the first team.

He has also claimed to be the best chance Barca have of convincing Messi to sign a contract extension.

While Koeman was only appointed last year, Laporta has reportedly considered offering the Barca post to Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta.

Laporta hit the jackpot when he appointed the inexperienced Guardiola, who was assisted by Arteta at Manchester City, in 2008.

With 80 per cent of the vote counted and Laporta's victory becoming clear, opposing candidate Friexa said: "I want to congratulate Laporta for this victory, which does not allow for any discussion. We must now support our President. Such a high turnout legitimises his win."

Lionel Messi was among the Barcelona players to cast his vote in the club's presidential election on Sunday.

Former president Joan Laporta is favourite to return for a second term in charge, with Victor Font and Toni Freixa the other men in the running.

A sometimes ill-tempered campaign was extended when a rise in coronavirus cases put back the original polling day of January 24.

And further tumult was added to proceedings this week when ex-president Josep Maria Bartomeu was arrested amid raids on Barcelona's headquarters by Catalan police this week.

Bartomeu was provisionally released under charges of unfair administration and corruption of business.

Elections were called after Bartomeu stood down in October, following a turbulent period in which Messi sought to leave the club.

But Barca captain Messi, who is out of contract in June and yet to commit to his next move, arrived to vote alongside fellow first-teamers Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Sergi Roberto and Riqui Puig, as well as ex-Blaugrana forward Luis Enrique.

Laporta said this week he was the only candidate who could ensure Messi would stay at Camp Nou, while Font believes his proposal of bringing in Barcelona great Xavi as head coach would be persuasive to his former team-mate.

Barcelona beat Osasuna 2-0 on Saturday, with Ronald Koeman's side cutting the gap to leaders Atletico Madrid to two points - having played two games more.

Atleti face Real Madrid – third and three points shy of Koeman's men – in Sunday's Madrid derby.

Lionel Messi is only ensured to stay with Barcelona if the presidential elections are won by Joan Laporta, says the favourite for Sunday's vote.

Laporta is bidding to return to the top job at Camp Nou following a successful tenure between 2003 and 2010, which began with the signing of Ronaldinho and concluded amid Pep Guardiola's glorious era in charge.

The emergence of Messi as world football's pre-eminent superstar also happened during that period and Laporta feels his established relationship can help to patch things up between the club and their record goalscorer.

Messi sought to leave Barca after the end of last season and is yet to announce his intentions for when his contract expires in June, with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain each linked to the 33-year-old.

Laporta was speaking at a debate alongside fellow candidates Victor Font and Toni Freixa on Tuesday.

Font believes his pledge to bring in Xavi as Barca coach would be persuasive for Messi, who he has earmarked for "a life contract", but Laporta primarily turned his attention towards Freixa, who worked under the presidencies of Sandro Rosell and Josep Maria Bartomeu when cracks in the relationship with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner started to appear.

"We will not be able to compete in money with other offers that [Messi] has," Laporta said.

"What he wants is to win again. I have a great relationship with Leo and he will value the proposal I make. 

"I am the only one who can ensure his continuity. If I don't win, I'm sure Leo won't continue at Barca. 

"He was not very happy with Freixa's time, when they let him see that he was expendable.

"My relationship with the Messi family has always been excellent."

Bartomeu's tenure, which ended in resignation last October after the Messi crisis was partially averted, was cast in an unsavoury light once more on Monday.

The former president was among four men arrested in relation to a raid on Barcelona's club offices by Catalan police, who are investigating possible economic crimes under Bartomeu's administration – reportedly in relation to the "Barcagate" scandal where a third party was allegedly paid to smear club greats including Messi and Guardiola.

The 58-year-old was provisionally released on Tuesday after spending a night in jail, appearing before a judge and exercising his right not to testify to charges of unfair administration and corruption in business.

Freixa expressed "sadness" and "surprise" that such matters should come to a head in election week, although Font went on the attack.

"[Bartomeu's arrest shows] the need and urgency to turn the page and build a new club model to prevent these things from happening," he said.

"We are talking about the possibility that a former president has used money from the entity to attack players and people around Barcelona, ​​including myself."

Laporta, arguably granted such a luxury by his strong position in the polls, opted to remain above the fray on the matter.

“We cannot prejudge or take advantage of this situation for our own benefit," he said.

"You have to let the process evolve. If responsibilities have to be clarified, we will do it."

Barcelona may be in a financial position to move for Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland at the end of the season, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Haaland's stock continues to rise following Wednesday's double for Dortmund in their 3-2 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Sevilla.

That made the Norway international the quickest player to reach double figures for goals in the competition for a single club, doing so in just seven matches - three games fewer than Roy Makaay for Bayern Munich between 2003 and 2004.

He has now scored a double in three successive Champions League games, having also netted twice against Club Brugge in the group stage.

Former Salzburg star Haaland has 18 goals in 13 games in the competition overall, which is a tally only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski can match since the start of 2019-20.

That type of scoring form has seen Haaland strongly linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus and Barcelona.

Despite Barca's well-known financial struggles amid the coronavirus pandemic, Laporta - who has close links to Haaland's agent Mino Raiola - is not ruling out a possible move.

"If we have to improve the football team, I have the cards and I'm ready to play them," he said in direct response to the links with the 20-year-old attacker.

"It's because of the experience and the knowledge I have of the people who could intervene in all these situations.

"I want to send a message of calm to the Barcelona fans - we will be economically sustainable again."

Laporta is one of three remaining candidates in the running to take over as Barca's next president, along with Victor Font and Toni Freixa.

The elections were originally due to take place in January but had to be pushed back to March 7 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lionel Messi's Barcelona contract is the biggest in the history of sport, landing the superstar forward more than €555million over four years.

That is the astonishing claim made by El Mundo, with the Spanish newspaper reporting on Sunday that it had obtained details of the deal signed by the 33-year-old in 2017.

The mega-money agreement, which expires in June this year, would see Messi receive up to €555,237,619 across four seasons, providing a number of conditions are met.

Messi was at the centre of a major transfer storm when he attempted to force a move away from Camp Nou last August, but was left frustrated when Barca refused to sanction an exit.

Amid a fraught presidential election campaign, it has remained apparent that all is not well at the Catalan club, whose financial worries are cast in a fresh light after El Mundo's stunning front-page revelations, with the outlet claiming to have laid hands on a copy of "the most sought-after document".

In addition to annual earnings in excess of €138m – dependent on some variables – the report says Messi received a renewal fee of over €115m, and a loyalty bonus just shy of €78m.

The Argentina international, who also rakes in millions in image rights, is said to have earned more than €500m from the eye-watering deal so far.

Barca's accounts for the 2019-20 season showed gross debt had reached €820m, with the coronavirus pandemic having further dented their outlook.

Against the backdrop of those financial woes, Messi's desire to leave, and with a fractious presidential election not due to be concluded until March, Barca are still off the pace in LaLiga despite a run of four consecutive top-flight wins.

Ronald Koeman's side are 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Sunday's visit of Athletic Bilbao.

Messi, who was red carded for the first time in his career earlier this month, has contributed 15 goals in all competitions.

Lionel Messi will "do everything in his power" to stay at Barcelona as long as he receives a suitable offer, according to presidential candidate Joan Laporta.

Messi's future has been the subject of speculation and debate for many months, with the club captain attempting to force through a move away last August.

At the time, he was adamant a contractual clause that allowed him to leave for free was still active, but Barca refused to sanction an exit and Messi opted against dragging them through the courts.

Since then Messi has taken a few public jabs at the club, though the early resignation of previous president Josep Maria Bartomeu in October is thought to have been a positive development in Barca's bid to rebuild the relationship.

Messi's contract expires at the end of the season and he has assured fans he will not make any decisions until Barca's campaign has concluded.

Laporta, the overwhelming favourite to succeed Bartomeu when the presidential election is given the green light to go ahead in either February or March, is convinced Messi wants to stay with the Blaugrana.

"Messi is now totally focused on catching Atletico Madrid in LaLiga and playing the Paris Saint-Germain tie in the Champions League," Laporta is quoted as saying by Sport.

"I do not know if he will be playing on Sunday [in the Supercopa de Espana final] but he will be on the bench and it is important that Leo encourage his team-mates.

"I see him more and more happy, he is enjoying it. I know that he wants to stay and I know that he will do everything in his power to stay as long as the club can offer him an offer that suits him."

One player who looks likely to arrive at Barca is Manchester City defender Eric Garcia, who has long been linked with a return to Camp Nou, where he began his career.

Laporta understands Garcia will not join this month but, assuming the new board agrees to his signing, he is being lined up for the end of the season once his contract at City runs out.

"Eric Garcia will not come this winter," Laporta added. "We cannot give a letter to the manager to carry out acts of disposition.

"The options and figures have been explained to us and we have all concluded that if the contract ends, the new board decides to incorporate him.

"We have assessed the player's salary, and it was an operation that had to be carried out by assessing the financial situation of the club."

Three candidates are in the running to became Barcelona president after Emili Rousaud withdrew from the electoral process.

Rousaud announced on Thursday that he is no longer in the frame to replace Josep Maria Bartomeu, who stepped down from the role in October.

Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Freixa are the trio of candidates who are in the race to be named president.

Laporta, the favourite to return for a second term, had 9,625 signatures validated, while there were 4,431 and 2,634 for Font and Freixa respectively in the validation process for an election that will take place on Sunday January 24.

Rousaud had stated he no longer wants to be involved in a "dirty war" for the right to succeed Bartomeu.

Marca quoted him as saying: "It was a day of impressive dignity because, to my surprise, the majority decision was not to agree to join another candidacy, because we cannot tolerate the dirty war and we prefer to stay out.

"Our sporting and economic proposals were the best."

Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta claimed he is the man best placed to persuade Lionel Messi to stay at Camp Nou.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the season and the Argentine's long-term future with Barca remains unclear.

The 33-year-old sent shockwaves through the world of football when he expressed a desire to end his near two-decade association with the Blaugrana ahead of the 2020-21 season, but after a lengthy transfer saga he opted to stay put.

An end to the tenure of Josep Maria Bartomeu – with whom Messi has had a tense relationship – as president in October has prompted the club to bring forward their elections to January 24.

Laporta, who served as Barca president between 2003 and 2010, is considered the leading candidate to triumph in the elections according to a poll in Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo.

Since his debut in October 2004, Barca have won 55.9 per cent of their LaLiga games without Messi (won 66, drawn 39 and lost 22), compared to 73.7 per cent with him in the side (won 368, drawn 83 and lost 48).

And Laporta believes his own personal relationship with Messi elevates him above other presidential candidates. 

"I see him [Messi] as positive because he said he will wait until the end of the season, and that gives us time to make a convincing proposal," Laporta told Marca.

"And I have an advantage, with Leo I have credibility. He always tells me that everything I promised him was fulfilled. You know that if I give my word, I keep it.

"We missed huge opportunities having the best player in the world. At Barca there are no transition years.

"We should have won more Champions Leagues, we hope to resume that success story of Barca with the competition. By the way, during my [previous] tenure Madrid did not win any."

Other candidates have made bold claims about which players they will bring to Camp Nou if they were elected.

Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland plus Paris Saint-Germain duo Neymar and Kylian Mbappe have been the most high-profile names, but Laporta would not be drawn on transfer targets.

"I have my own sports project. I will not fall into the trap of naming names," he added.

"All the agents are calling me. I know them all and they want me to be president again, but I tell them that now I'm not talking about players or coaches."

Laporta also believes Barca's influence has diminished in recent years and he would seek to restore their standing.

"It has lost a lot of specific weight in the Spanish Football Federation, LaLiga, UEFA, FIFA and in all the bodies that govern football," he explained.

"Barca has to regain its credibility. We must have a presence to intervene in decision-making that affects football in general."

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