La Liga’s financial fair play rules, according to Barcelona president Joan Laporta, are preventing Lionel Messi from signing a new contract with the club.
On Thursday, Messi’s contract with Barcelona expired, making him a free agent for the first time in his professional career.
- The Ultimate History of Lionel Messi at Barcelona – La Liga on ESPN+: Stream LIVE games and replays (U.S. only)
La Liga president Javier Tebas has reminded Barcelona that they must make cuts in order to sign any new Messi contract before next season.
On Thursday, Laporta told Onda Cero, “We want him to stay and Leo wants to stay, everything is on track.”
“We still have the [financial fairness] issue to resolve… we’re working on the greatest solution for all stakeholders.”
Prior to the pandemic, Barca had the highest wage cap in Spain, at €671 million per year, but that figure had nearly fallen to €347 million by March.
The purge began last summer with the departures of Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal, and Ivan Rakitic, but Barcelona will need to decrease their wage bill much more in order to sign Messi’s new contract and their four summer signings: Sergio Aguero, Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay, and Emerson Royal.
Barca has only been able to sell periphery players this summer window, with Juan Miranda, Jean-Clair Todibo, Matheus Fernandes, and Konrad de la Fuente all leaving. Junior Firpo, a left-back, is also expected to join Leeds United.
When it comes to getting rid of high-earners, though, the club has encountered a brick block. Neto, Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho, and Miralem Pjanic have all remained untouchable.
According to club sources, things will pick up after Euro 2020 and the Copa America are through, and they’re also looking into additional methods to cut the pay bill.
Any money brought in through transfers might be used to enhance Barca’s pay ceiling for next season.
Messi’s latest four-year contract, which ended on June 30, was worth over €500 million when signing fees, salary, bonuses, and image rights were factored in.
Barca can’t afford to pay him at the same amount, so they’re looking at methods to reward him over a longer period of time so he doesn’t have to accept a significant pay drop.
If he chooses to leave Barca for Major League Soccer in a few years, as he has stated an interest in doing, options include continuing to pay him in an ambassadorial capacity and the opportunity to return to the club in a backroom job after that.
Messi was formally registered as a Barcelona player for the first time in 2001, and he has remained with the club ever since.
Last summer, he requested to depart but was denied by then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Since then, Laporta has taken over for Bartomeu, and ESPN reported on Wednesday that Messi has become more inclined to extending his stay at Camp Nou as a result.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been keeping tabs on the situation for the past six months, but neither club appears to be interested in making a serious bid for the Argentina international.
The significance of Messi’s free agency was not lost on former club Newell’s Old Boys, who invited him back on social media, while Brazilian minnows Ibis Sport Club promised him “the worst time in the world” if he joined them.