Barca president: We are better than Real Madrid

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Barcelona president Joan Laporta has said his team is better than bitter rivals Real Madrid and can not only retain LaLiga next season, but also win the Champions League.

Barca returned to preseason training earlier this week and have made two signings in the transfer window so far — Ilkay Gundogan and Iñigo Martinez.

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“We have a better team than Madrid and, individually, we are also better, with some difference than our rivals,” Laporta told Sport. “As a club member and fan, I am very satisfied with the team we are building.”

Madrid, who finished as runners-up to Barca last season in LaLiga, have added Jude Bellingham, Joselu, Fran Garcia and former Barca target Arda Guler this summer.

“We already have a very competitive team,” Laporta said. “We have won the Spanish League and we can continue exercising dominance in this competition. We also want to be in the group of candidates to win the Champions League.

“I focus on making a good team over signing individuals. We have signed Gundogan and Martinez and they will give us great performances like the others that are going to come.

“We are missing a right-back and we are working on it. We also want to reinforce our midfield line.”

However, Barca failed in their attempt to bring Lionel Messi back to the club.

The 2022 World Cup winner is to be unveiled at Inter Miami on Sunday after leaving Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent last month.

“He had the idea of coming this time, we wanted him to come,” Laporta said. “It has not happened.

“We had authorisation from LaLiga for Leo’s contract to be included. It was something that was discussed with Jorge [Lionel Messi’s father and agent] and everything was defined.

“Jorge told us that he [Messi] had decided on Inter Miami because he had spent some very hard seasons in Paris, where he was under a lot of pressure, that in Miami he would be calmer and could think about the national team. We haven’t talked anymore.”

Laporta believes it is difficult to envision Messi, 36, returning to play for Barca before the end of his career.

“It’s something to ask him,” Laporta said. “I see it as more complicated.

“Leo takes great care of himself, he has exceptional talent, and he could always perform because he is always decisive, as was seen in the World Cup.

“We wish him well in Miami and Barca is his home. It is a relationship that ended when he went to Paris. It was resumed without achieving what both parties wanted and now it is correct.”

Messi left Barca as a free agent in August 2021 due to the club’s financial crisis, with Laporta admitting then that his board had inherited a club record debt of €1.35 billion ($1.48b).

Last month, Barca received approval from LaLiga for its financial plan, allowing the club to register players.

“We already left hospital, and we are adapting to normal life,” Laporta said. “The club is better than two years ago. The magnitude of the drama was enormous.

“The joy has returned to Barcelona and now we are winning again. It is a moderate joy, but we are on the right path.

“We have this [financial] viability plan, it is scheduled for January [2024] or June [2024].”

Barca are waiting to see if they can register teenage forward Vitor Roque in this transfer window.

The Catalan outfit agreed to sign the Brazilian from Athletico-PR for a reported €40m ($44.1m) fee.

“We can say that Vitor Roque is a done deal,” Laporta said. “The contract is signed, and he is a Barca player. “

Laporta did not specify when Roque will join Barca.

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