Josep Maria Bartomeu has resigned as the president of FC Barcelona, following a breakdown in relations with its star player, Lionel Messi, and a wider leadership crisis that has engulfed the world’s highest-earning football club.

Mr Bartomeu and the rest of the board at the Catalan club announced their departure on Tuesday night.

The move came before a looming vote of no confidence from club members and following weeks of pressure from fans and commentators.

Barcelona have suffered humiliating defeats on the pitch in recent months, while the club’s finances are under strain because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Bartomeu, who became president in 2014 and whose term was due to end next year, has been heavily criticised by Messi.

Messi demanded to leave the club in August but eventually decided to see out his playing contract, which ends in June 2021, to avoid entering a legal dispute.

In August, Barcelona suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat against Germany’s Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Europe’s top club football contest, in one of the worst losses in its history. 

In response, the club sacked head coach Quique Setién, replacing him with Ronald Koeman, while offloading many ageing players over the summer transfer window, including Luis Suárez and Ivan Rakitic.

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The club has failed to win the Champions League since 2015, suffering collapses in the later stages of the competition in recent years. The club also suffered a damaging 3-1 home defeat to arch-rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.

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Earlier this month, Barcelona posted a €100m pre-tax loss for last season, while more than doubling debt to €488m. Every part of its business has been hit by the pandemic. 

The club said commercial revenues were down 9 per cent to €297m as sponsorship deals fell through. Matchday revenues dropped 24 per cent to €162m, with spectators having been absent since March. Broadcasting income fell 17 per cent to €249m, partly a result of fewer European matches because of the pandemic.

In a departing statement, Mr Bartomeu said Barcelona had approved, in principle, joining a European Super League of clubs, explaining that its creation would safeguard the club’s financial future. However, he did not provide further details of any proposal or other clubs willing to join such a competition.

Via Financial Times