Josep Maria Bartomeu is lying about Lionel Messi's new contract, according to Agusti Benedito, the man leading the charge for a vote of no confidence against the current Barcelona president.
Bartomeu has reiterated recently to 8TV (h/t Goal) that Messi's new deal is all but agreed barring formalities—his current contract expires at the end of the 2017-18 season—but Benedito believes the president is a key barrier to getting the Argentinian's signature down on paper, per Sergio Vera of Sport:
"Bartomeu's said that the contract is signed and it's just lacking the protocol. That contract, without Leo's signature, is not valid. Even though his father has signed, it needs the player's signature. This doesn't help with getting it signed. It's possible that Bartomeu's presence is the main obstacle [for getting it signed]. I hope that the president explains everything truthfully. It's not the first time he's lied."
Bartomeu said recently: "We will take the photo with Messi's signature, hopefully before the end of the year, but the contract has been signed by his father, who has the power of his image rights. This contract is signed until 2021 and he is already playing under it."
Given Messi's ongoing importance to the Catalan side it remains a huge concern that he has not categorically committed to the club past the end of the current campaign, per the Guardian's Sid Lowe:
Sid Lowe @sidlowe
Said Messi had *signed* new contract. Twice. He hasn't. In a year, he is a free agent.2017-9-2 08:48:22
For all Bartomeu's assurances and bluster, the key fact remains that Messi is still in a position where he could leave for free at the end of 2017-18.
As noted by Goal's Ben Hayward, Barca's Spanish rivals Real Madrid have, in contrast, been very efficient in getting their key stars to sign new deals:
Ben Hayward @bghayward
Bartomeu still talking about renewing Iniesta and Messi. Meanwhile, Madrid HAVE renewed Marcelo and Isco. Actions speak louder than words.2017-9-14 22:50:26
After Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain for £200 million in the summer Messi, 30, remaining at Barcelona is arguably more crucial than ever.
He has netted a staggering nine goals as Barcelona have won each of their first five La Liga matches of the new season.
Benedito's criticisms of Bartomeu are unsurprising but, in this case, arguably valid. The absence of Messi's signature on his supposedly agreed new contract is a distraction the club could do without.