Stress affecting the performance of the team.
Bartomeu will stand again for re-election.
Messi happy and going nowehere, insists president.

Josep Maria Bartomeu has announced that Barcelona’s presidential elections will be brought forward to this year and confirmed that he and the current board “want to stand to be re-elected.”

The announcement comes after the recent turmoil off the pitch, which culminated in the departures of Andoni Zubizarreta and Carles Puyol on Monday.

“I’ve called this Press conference today to announce that we have called elections [at the end of the season],” he began.

“We want to ease the tensions which I think are disproportionate and don’t conform to the reality of the club.

“We’re a club who are functioning very well socially and are still in all competitions on a sporting level.

“The most important thing is that we’re competing for titles. Success is only achieved if we all support the team.

“It’s a decision which is shared with many of my fellow board members. I have their support. At the end of the day, I’m the one who makes decisions.

“We want to stand to be re-elected. Things are positive, we started our work 2010 and we want to continue with what we’re doing.

“We constantly self-criticise ourselves. The only thing we wanted was to reduce this tension. The club need it lowered. Organising meetings for the end of season is a way of defusing the tension.

“There comes a time in the electoral process when members of the board will resign, but we’ll see when the exact dates are.

“Bringing forward the elections is a decision I made today. I spoke with all my colleagues about it beforehand, and it gives balance to the club and the team.

“This disproportionate stress ultimately affects the team. Therefore we’ve called the elections so we can focus on strengthening the team.”

Messi staying put

Lionel Messi

Bartomeu also dismissed suggestions Lionel Messi is looking to leave the club and played down talk of a rift between the Argentinian and coach Luis Enrique.

“I can’t come out every day to deny every rumour floating around the club,” he said. “Lionel Messi has a contract, he’s happy here and keen to win more titles. There’s nothing to panic about in that regard.

“The dressing room is a sacred place. Many things can happen there but they stay there.

“Lionel Messi is the leader of our team. He is our best player and we are counting on his services.”

Asked if Messi was happy at Barca, he added: “You just need to watch him on the pitch, he is not the player of last season.

“Everyone in football knows Barca do not want to sell Messi. So there is no issue.

“The stories are written to create conflict when conflict does not exist. But these are questions you have to direct at Luis Enrique and Messi.

“These are matters that Luis Enrique has made clear are best kept within the squad. I am in contact with them and the message I am getting is they are working well and trying to win titles.”