Lionel Messi Neymar
Laporta says Messi will stay at Barcelona but Neymar may move away Reuters

Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta believes that Manchester United summer target Neymar may leave the Camp Nou in the near future due to the struggling economic situation of the club. Laporta says that current president Josep Maria Bartomeu needs to balance the books somehow and selling the likes of Neymar would be the "easiest solution" as Lionel Messi will never leave the club.

Neymar's future at the Champions League winners have been under scrutiny since in the final days of the summer transfer window Globo Esporte reported that Louis van Gaal was launching a €190m (£136m, $207m) bid to make the 23-year-old star his marquee signing of the season. The Premier League giants secured the services of Anthony Martial from Monaco instead, but both the father of the Brazilian and Neymar himself confirmed recently that United eventually made both them and Barcelona an offer – which was rejected by the Catalan club.

But Laporta has now claimed during an interview with RMC that the Brazilian may be sold due to the club's struggling economic situation. Asked whether Messi will leave Barcelona in the near future, he said: "Never, never. I think Messi will never leave Barcelona."

"It is part of our emblem and our heart," Laporta said. "I received many proposals when I was president from clubs like Inter Milan and others who wanted to pay his release clause but I always said that was not possible. If I were president, he would never leave Barcelona."

But when asked the same question over Neymar, he said: "The problem is that Barcelona's economic situation is not good.

"I think that to balance the books, the current president has the option to either sell players or assets. The easiest solution is to sell players. This is a very difficult moment for Barcelona because of the mismanagement of the current leadership."

Last week Barcelona's vice president for the economic area, Susana Monje, said the Catalan giants are "financially in very good health." However, at the same time, she admitted that Barcelona should stay away from making signings in the January window due to club debt.

"We can sign and shall make an effort to do so, but we have to be prudent. The club has made profits, it is solid and that means we can cover the players' salaries," she said as quoted by Mundo Deportivo. "FC Barcelona is financially in very good health. This is the best moment ever in the history of the club. We are happy to have achieved the highest income in the history of the club. There is still potential to generate even more income but things are on the right track. We shall continue to reduce the debt and capitalise the club."

Meanwhile, recently Neymar's father and agent warned that his son will not renew his contract at Barcelona until all his problems with the Brazilian tax authorities are solved – despite the club claiming that they want to tie him with a new contract to see him hanging his boots at the Camp Nou.

"We have three years left on the current deal. We, the family, are suffering from huge insecurity [to do with taxes and the legal proceedings], so that affects how we plan his career. We need these matters to be over. How can we extend something if we don't have tax stability? What is it that is happening? Spain has to tell me if my companies can work with Neymar Jr; they have to define what their position is," he said.