Barcelona denies report it hired PR company to damage reputation of Lionel Messi, other players

Barcelona denied a report the club hired a firm to protect president Josep Bartomeu's reputation and damage Lionel Messi's. (REUTERS/Albert Gea)

FC Barcelona is denying a report that it hired a PR company to protect club president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s reputation and damage that of others, including soccer star Lionel Messi.

Barcelona hired the company “13 Ventures” to run accounts on Facebook and Twitter that would protect Bartomeu’s reputation and damage that of former coaches and players, according to a report by SER Catalunya radio show “Què t’hi jugues” (H/T Marca).

Report: Barcelona hires PR company to criticize players

The posts criticized Messi for his delay in signing with Barcelona and attacked defender Gerard Pique for his business interests, including work with the Davis Cup, per the report. The content has also criticized club legends Pep Guardiola, Xavi Hernandez and Carles Puyol, plus potential club presidents Victor Font, Joan Laporta and Agusti Benedito. 

The show shared an example of those posts on Twitter.

The accounts were started in 2017, per the report, and Los Cules confirmed that Barcelona hire the company for approximately one million euros ($1.08 million).

Barcelona denies contracting company

Barcelona released a statement Monday morning denying the accusation, and said that 13 Ventures is a “service provider” to the club. But the PR company has “no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship were to come to light, the Club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests.”

It confirmed it has hired services to monitor social media to analyze responses, both positive and negative, to the club as it attempts to “preserve its reputation as well those of people related to the Club (sponsors, players, board members, members, supporters' club members...).”

Barcelona also asked for an immediate correction to the report. Via the statement:

The Club demands an immediate rectification of the information published and reserves the right to exercise legal action against those who continue to implicate the Club in such practices. 

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