Barcelona hit back at social media claims

Lionel Messi

Barcelona have strongly denied reports a company was hired to post negative messages on social media about some of their own players.

A Spanish radio station claimed the La Liga champions wanted to protect the reputation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu and attempted to do so by hiring a social media firm to criticise key figures associated with the Catalonia side.

It was suggested I3 Ventures had been hired to publish stories that damaged the image of several players, including Lionel Messi, and ex-players, after they had criticised Bartomeu.

A statement on the club’s website read: “Barcelona strongly denies any relationship and, furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social network accounts that have spread negative messages or disdain in relation to any person, entity or organisation that has or has had a relationship with the club.

“I3 Ventures, the club’s provider, has no relation to these accounts and, in the event of any kind of relationship, the club would immediately terminate its contractual relationship and take appropriate legal actions in defence of its legitimate interests.”

The statement went on to confirm Barcelona has “contracted social media monitoring services with the aim of being aware of both the positive and negative messages” regarding the club.

It added Barca “demands the immediate rectification” of claims suggesting they hired I3 Ventures to post negative comments on social media and “reserves the right to take the appropriate legal actions”.

On the pitch, according to reports, Barcelona have been given special permission by La Liga to make an emergency signing outside of the transfer window in the shape of a forward, after Ousmane Dembele was ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.