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Barcelona worried about Premier League

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The Premier League is a bigger rival to Barcelona than Real Madrid, says Josep Maria Bartomeu – president of the La Liga champions.

The 20 English top-flight teams will share £5.136bn for live domestic TV coverage of matches from next season.

“Premier League teams will have an incredible financial situation from now on and we are worried,” Bartomeu told BBC sports editor Dan Roan.

Barcelona face Arsenal in the Champions League on Tuesday.

Luis Enrique’s side go into the first leg of the last-16 tie at the Emirates unbeaten in 32 league and cup games and aiming for unprecedented back-to-back Champions League titles.

‘We want to keep our talents’

Spain’s top two teams – Barca and Real – previously negotiated their own TV deals, but have now been stopped from doing so under a new Spanish law.

It means new rules will see rights to show La Liga pooled and sold collectively, bringing it more in line with the Premier League – which will see the bottom club still earn £99m next season.

Josep Maria Bartomeu

He added: “The Premier League is the best football competition. It has the most interest for fans and most revenues. They are doing things good and keeping teams in the competition where everyone being equal is of interest for everybody.

“We have different budgets in Spain and it would be difficult for someone like [current Premier League leaders] Leicester to be top of the league.

“Our rivals are the Premier League, they are the big adversaries. We have to do our best to increase our revenues and our financial situation to make the talent of our teams stay with us.

“That is why I am so worried and we are working on this. We want to keep the talent at home.

“I know our players are in touch with other clubs, it’s normal. None of our players said they want to leave. Most get better economical offers, but our players are not in Barcelona for the money, they are there because of the football and the fans’ commitment.”

‘Pep has very good ideas for football’

Pep Guardiola

This summer, ex-Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola will take over at Manchester City. The Spaniard won 14 trophies in four years at the Nou Camp.

City’s chief executive officer Ferran Soriano and director of football Txiki Begiristain both previously worked at Barcelona.

“I don’t think City are replicating anything,” said Bartomeu. “Like a lot of clubs in the world, they have a project to make the club grow.

“Some of their people used to be with us at Barcelona and they are bringing their experience to the club. This is normal because in Europe there is the movement of professionals from one to another.

“Pep will do well at any club, he is a very good coach and did a fantastic job at Barcelona. He was in the playing arena for years and I had the privilege of working with him for two years. He has very good ideas for football which he brought to Bayern and now City.

“They are not copying, they are evolution of an idea and Pep will do it great. The Premier League will have the advantage of having one of the best coaches in the world.”

‘Incredible trident’

Messi, Neymar, Suarez

Barcelona’s South American front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez have scored a staggering 91 goals so far between them this season. Argentine Messi has 27, Brazilian Neymar 23 and Uruguayan Suarez has notched 41.

Barcelona are currently top of La Liga, eight points clear of Atletico Madrid in second.

“Right now, we are happy because we have the best players in the world,” said Bartomeu. “Messi is with us, Neymar is an incredible player of the future but Suarez brought the balance to them. Together, this trident is incredible.

“The fans of Barcelona have never seen players do this: how they enjoy playing, the friendship they have between them and the locker room. Suarez is one of the keys to that. We are very happy with him, we knew he was an incredible player and he has been better than expectations.”

New name for the Nou Camp?

Nou Camp stadium

Real Madrid topped Deloitte’s Football Money League for 2015 – a list of the highest earning clubs put together by the professional services firm’s sports business group.

Real’s 577m euros earnings (£439m) put Barcelona into second place with 560.8m euros (£426m), with Manchester United in third on 519.5m euros (£395m).

But Bartomeu said his goal is to reach 1,000m euros (£780m) annual revenue to “develop our club and make it bigger”.

He said that in the next 12 months, Barcelona may decide to have “title rights holders” for the Nou Camp to help raise 420m euros (£327m) to refurbish the famous stadium and increase its 99,750 capacity.

Bartomeu said there “may be controversy”, but that all key decisions “would be voted on”.

Tax fraud ‘not a Barcelona problem’

One off-field issue which has led to speculation that Barcelona’s top stars will leave Spain is problems with tax.

Defender Javier Mascherano is expected to avoid jail despite admitting tax fraud, while fellow Argentina international and world player of the year Messi faces trial alongside his father in the summer over tax fraud charges.

Team-mate Neymar has denied any connection with allegations of corruption and fraud surrounding his transfer to Barcelona. In a separate tax fraud case in his native Brazil, the striker has had $ 50m (£34.5m) of assets frozen by a court.

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Asked about the cases, Bartomeu said Barcelona had “not made any mistakes, it is the private problems of the players”.

He claimed most of the players in Spain had been “in tax review” in the last few years and had paid extra taxes, but argued it was the “responsibility of their tax advisors if they do things correctly or incorrectly”.

Champions League wildcard a possibility?

Barcelona won their fifth Champions League crown last season, but what would happen if they didn’t qualify for the competition one season?

“Sometimes, for the interest of football, why not give wildcards like in tennis,” says Bartomeu. “Sometimes the top players don’t qualify and are given wildcards for the interest. This can happen in football. That is the decision of Uefa.

“Sometimes, clubs have a bad season and it is a big punishment to not play in the Champions League. We need a stronger Champions League and more and more interest for the football fans and to make it more competitive.

“The Champions League is the biggest competition and most important one.”

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