Here we are. It’s finally happened. Lionel Messi is no longer a Barcelona player.
The Argentine pushed to leave Camp Nou last summer, believing he had the right to terminate his contract, but was eventually forced to stay and has since been in lengthy discussions with the board over a new deal.
However, an agreement is yet to be reached. There had been hopes that Barcelona would be able to announce a new contract for Messi on his birthday, 24 June, but that did not happen, and now the calendar has flipped over into July he is officially a free agent.
Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are the two sides linked with a move for Messi most often, and while both could get a deal done, that’s currently seen as unlikely as all the signs suggest the 34-year-old will simply ink a new deal in Catalonia.
However, the reason for the hold-up in the deal is money. Barcelona were recently warned by La Liga president Javier Tebas that they have exceeded their salary cap for the season and must make drastic cuts elsewhere if they want to keep Messi, whose previous salary is far too high for them to get anywhere close to.
“We want him to stay and Leo wants to stay, everything is going well, but we have the issue of financial fair play and we are in the process of finding the best solution for both parties,” club president Joan Laporta confirmed to Onda Cero‘s El Transistor as Messi’s contract expired.
“I would like to announce that he is staying but at the moment I cannot say it because we are in the process of looking for the best solution for both parties.”
The idea of handing Messi a low salary with enormous bonuses has been discussed, but there are fears that such a deal could break both La Liga and Spanish laws, and tax advisor Ramon Alvarez de Mon recently told El Chiringuito that Messi could go to prison if his next deal doesn’t play by the rules.
Talks will continue between Barcelona and Messi, who is not listening to other proposals as he will prioritise staying at the club, but there are obviously some hurdles to cross before this gets done.
Barcelona are seemingly feeling good about it all, however, and all the proof you need of that is Laporta’s one-word response to Jugones La Sexta when asked about the situation: “Calm.”