Barcelona deny hiring firm to attack Lionel Messi on social media

Lionel Messi
Radio station SER Catalunya says Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique were two of the players criticised by the social media accounts

Barcelona have denied hiring a firm to produce disparaging social media posts aimed at its own players such as Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique.

A radio station claim Barcelona wanted to protect the reputation of president Josep Maria Bartomeu and damage the image of those who disagreed with him.

SER Catalunya said the club worked with a company "that creates opinion" on social media accounts to achieve that.

But Barcelona say they "roundly deny any relationship" with the accounts.

"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," a statement added.

According to a podcast show on SER Catalunya the company, I3 Ventures, manage "dozens of accounts on Twitter and Facebook".

It says through these accounts attacks were made on Messi, Pique, former manager Pep Guardiola, ex-players Xavi and Carles Puyol and some of Bartomeu's presidential rivals.

The podcast claims Barcelona found the posts "necessary to preserve the reputation of the president and the brand".

In response, Barcelona say I3 Ventures is a service provider to the club but "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 added: "As such, FC Barcelona confirm it has services contracted relating to the monitoring of social media with the aim of analysing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself."

Barcelona says the "protection of this reputation is a fundamental element and responsibility for those who work for the organisation".

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