(Reuters) – Lionel Messi is one of the investors in the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid later this year, according to Barcelona team mate Gerard Pique whose Kosmos company has been instrumental in a revamp for the historic tennis competition.
FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football – La Liga Santander – Athletic Bilbao v FC Barcelona – San Mames, Bilbao, Spain – February 10, 2019 Barcelona’s Lionel Messi during the match. REUTERS/Vincent West
Pique’s investment firm Kosmos has backed the new format to the tune of $3 billion over 25 years and will jointly run the competition alongside the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
The inaugural 18-nation finals, which have replaced the 16-nation World Group played throughout the year, will take place at Madrid’s La Caja Magica (Magic Box) stadium on Nov. 18-24.
Speaking before Thursday’s draw ceremony, Pique confirmed Argentina forward and fellow tennis fan Messi, who already has a stake in Kosmos, was involved.
“Leo knows more than anyone about this because he is involved in Kosmos,” Pique was quoted as saying by British media on Friday.
“He is a partner, he is part of the Kosmos family, he likes tennis. We have a relationship of 18 years since he arrived at the club and I always try to share with him things I’m thinking, he loves to be part of it and he wanted to be part of it.”
Pique’s involvement in the ITF’s 119-year-old team competition has drawn scorn in some quarters, with former world number one Lleyton Hewitt, who will captain Australia at the event, questioning his credentials.
Swiss great Roger Federer even suggested the competition was in danger of becoming the “Pique Cup”.
“I hate it, because it’s not about me and I don’t want my name on the competition,” Pique said.
“Davis Cup history is so big. I hope we can change this opinion. After a few years, I hope they go back and say ‘We were wrong, Davis Cup is more alive than ever’.
“I respect the opinion of Lleyton, he was a great player. I can understand that when a footballer comes in the tennis world it can seem a little bit awkward or strange, but at the end of the day I’m not going to be changing the rules of tennis.”
Pique, 32, also said he was too busy trying to help Barcelona win La Liga and the Champions League than meddling too much in the ITF’s flagship tournament.
“I don’t want to be distracted because I have another job, which is to play football. It helps me be focused, more concentrated and not to make mistakes on the pitch because otherwise I know there will be criticism,” he said in the Daily Mail.
The Davis Cup Finals, which will offer a large prize money pot, will be staged in Madrid for two years before possibly moving to the California resort of Indian Wells owned by another Kosmos stakeholder Larry Ellison.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis