BARCELONA, Spain — A Barcelona official has been dismissed from an institutional-relations role after he said Lionel Messi would not be as good if he didn't have great teammates, the club announced on Friday.
Barcelona said it relieved Pere Gratacos from his responsibilities because "he publicly expressed a personal opinion that did not coincide with the opinion of the entity."
Gratacos was responsible for the club's institutional relations with the Spanish football federation. Barcelona said he will remain working on other projects within the club.
The official told Spanish media after the Copa del Rey draw on Friday that "Leo is one of the most important players of the team, but he wouldn't be as good without Neymar, (Luis) Suarez, (Gerard) Pique, (Andres) Iniesta and the rest of the players." He added that "obviously Messi is the best player."
Gratacos was answering a question about Messi's importance after the team advanced to the Copa quarterfinals with a win over Athletic Bilbao on Wednesday, when Messi scored a decisive free kick goal.
The official's comments came as Messi, a five-time world player of the year, is reportedly negotiating a new contract with the Catalan club.
The 29-year-old Argentine has 12 goals in the last 11 games. He's scored decisive free kick goals in all three of Barcelona's matches this year.