BARCELONA:Spanish champions Barcelona have downgraded a director who apparently sought to minimise the contribution of Lionel Messi to the club’s successes.

Pere Gratacos was responsible for relations with the national federation and put his foot in it in a comment after attending the draw for the quarter-finals of the Spanish cup.

He said: “Barcelona are here not only because of Messi. He’s very important but it was the team who won [against Bilbao earlier this week]. “Without Neymar, Luis Suarez, [Andres] Iniesta, [Gerard] Pique and the others, he wouldn’t be such a good player.”

Barcelona, preparing to enter delicate contract extension talks with their finest player, reacted quickly.

A formal statement said: “FC Barcelona has dismissed Pere Gratacós as director responsible for institutional relations sporting with the Royal Spanish Football Federation for having publicly expressed a personal opinion that does not match that of the club.

“The decision has been made by Albert Soler, director of professional sports, who will take over these duties from now on. Pere Gratacós continue linked to FC Barcelona developing other tasks already exercised under the Masía 360 project.”

Barcelona, the holders, had been drawn to play Real Sociedad in the quarter-finals while Celta Vigo will take on Real Madrid.

League leaders Madrid booked their spot in the last eight on Thursday when they set a Spanish record of 40 matches unbeaten in all competitions after they came back from two goals behind to snatch a 3-3 draw at Sevilla.

Atletico de Madrid will take on Eibar, who are in the quarter-finals for the first time, while second tier side Alcorcon, the only team from outside the top flight left in the competition, face Alaves.

The ties will be played over two legs with the opening matches on Jan. 18 and the returns a week later. The final will take place on May 27.