Poor countries need not pay clubs for players - Laporta

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RICHARD TOLL, Senegal, Oct 26 (Reuters) Barcelona president Joan Laporta said his proposal to make national teams pay clubs for using their players should not apply to poor nations such as Ivory Coast and Cameroon.

''Of course the non-developed countries should not have to pay,'' Laporta told Reuters on a visit to Senegal to inaugurate Barcelona's first sports and educational centre for underprivileged children.

Laporta said last month that it was a disgrace no compensation was paid to clubs for the use of their players by national federations and he would consider not releasing players for international duty unless a solution was found.

Barcelona have several players from developing nations, such as Cameroonian striker Samuel Eto'o and Ivorian midfielder Yaya Toure. Laporta said such nations should be exempt from payments but the club has already asked the pair to skip the African Nations Cup in Ghana in January.

''I'm involved in a committee of FIFA which has just been created and there we are trying to find solutions in order to improve the national match calendar,'' Laporta said in an interview late yesterday. ''I'm sure that we'll find solutions because now FIFA is aware that we have to avoid some abuses.'' Barcelona reached a deal last year to pay UN child agency UNICEF to carry its emblem on their shirts and Laporta said the club were not interested in seeking a commercial sponsor because they remained profitable.

''We refused an offer of 22 million euros per season during five years, that's 110 million euros, but you know it's not a question of money,'' he said. ''As a big club we have a responsibility to make a better world.'' FOREIGN PLAYERS Barcelona were studying FIFA proposals to limit the number of foreign players in club sides which Laporta said would need to comply with EU regulations on freedom of movement within the bloc.

''We have to think about some rules to protect the young players for the clubs that are investing a lot of money to have homegrown players,'' said Laporta, whose club are regarded as a flagship of Catalan identity and have a record in recent years of mixing local talent with big-name foreign players.

Barcelona's main close-season signing, French international striker Thierry Henry, would soon adopt a leading role in the side, Laporta said. The former Arsenal player has struggled, however, to fill the boots of the injured Eto'o, and has scored just three Primera Liga goals.

''He is getting better step by step, match by match. You know that Thierry was injured for six months last season and, when Eto'o became injured, Thierry had to appear faster than expected.'' ''All our supporters are very happy with Thierry Henry because they feel that Thierry will be in a short period of time the player that he was at Arsenal,'' he said.


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