Two of the candidates in Barcelona's presidential election, Joan Laporta and Victor Font, insist that Lionel Messi "generates more" than he costs the club, after details of his remarkable contract were leaked to a Spanish newspaper.
On Sunday, under the headline "The colossal contract that ruins Barcelona", El Mundo published details of the current deal, signed in 2017. It said Messi, who is in the final year of his current deal, could have earned €700 million ($846m) by the time it expires.
Barcelona responded by saying it was not the source of the leak and it planned to sue El Mundo. The club did not, however, contradict the details.
"Leo generates much more income than the money he costs," Joan Laporta, who is seeking to regain the presidency, told Rac1 radio network. "We have done a study and he generates a third of Barca's total income."
"It's not only the economic return," Laporta said. "But also the emotional and sporting return, and the vivid moments he gives us."
Laporta is one of three candidates for the election on March 7. One of his rivals, Font, spoke on Onda Cero radio.
"To imply that Barca is ruined because of Messi is an absolutely erroneous conclusion," he said. Both candidates condemned the "leak" to the Madrid newspaper and both promised they would do everything to keep Messi at Barca.
"We have to do everything possible to keep Messi, in 2017 and today too," said Font.
Laporta, the president when Messi first broke into the Barcelona team, agreed.
"I will do everything possible to keep Messi at Barca. I have had signals that he is happy in in Barcelona, that he wants to stay."
Current manager Ronald Koeman has called on Barcelona to sack any employee that may have been responsible for leaking details of Messi's deal.
"I don't understand how anyone could link Messi to Barca's ruin," the Dutchman said.
"We have known for a very long time that he is the best player in the world, he has done so much for this club and is decisive. We have to respect everything Messi has done.
"If this was someone from the club they cannot have a future here."