Barca speak on firm it hired attacking Messi, Pique

Barcelona have threatened to take legal action after it was alleged they paid a third-party company to discredit players, club legends and presidential candidates, among others.
SER Catalunya reported on Monday that I3 Ventures was contracted by the club with the initial idea of helping to clean up president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s image.
Sources have told ESPN that the club have been working with I3 Ventures since the beginning of 2017.
The Argentine company, which has bases in Madrid and Barcelona, has received just under €1 million from the Catalan club for running various campaigns.
As well as defending Bartomeu, I3 Ventures, which administers a number of Facebook and Twitter accounts, is also alleged to have attacked people related to the club, including Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique.
In a strongly worded response, Barca denied that they or I3 Ventures have any connection to the social media profiles which published the posts that have been flagged.
“We roundly deny any relationship, and furthermore, the contracting of services linked to social media accounts that have broadcast negative or disparaging messages related to any person, entity or organisation that may be, or have been, related to the club,” a statement read.
“I3 Ventures, a service provider to the club, has no relationship with the accounts mentioned and, if any relationship was to come to light, the club would immediately end their contractual agreement and bring about any necessary legal action to defend their interests.
“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.”
Barca explained that their relationship with I3 involved “monitoring of social media with the aim of analysing both positive and negative messages about the organisation itself.”
Among the posts revealed by SER Catalunya, Pique was criticised for his involvement in organising the Davis Cup, while Messi and his wife, Antonella Roccuzzo, were also targeted.
However, on many other occasions, campaigns were run in defence of Messi, praising the club’s record goal scorer.
Club legends Xavi Hernandez, Carles Puyol and Pep Guardiola have also been discredited by accounts allegedly run by I3, as have presidential candidates Agusti Benedito and Victor Font.
Benedito responded on Monday when he said he would file a lawsuit against Bartomeu and his board of directors if the allegations were proven.
Font, meanwhile, said the club’s board must come out immediately and offer an explanation because the allegations are “extremely worrying.”