August 6 – After 21 years and a relationship of romance, thrill and exultation, Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona will part ways “because of financial and structural obstacles”.
Messi, 34, has been a free agent since 1 July when his contract expired and the Argentinean superstar agreed a new five-year deal on reduced wages two weeks later, but Barcelona are not in a position to honour that tentative agreement.
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations),” said the club in a statement. “As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”
Barcelona needed to sell players to raise the funds to be able to renew Messi’s deal, but the club struggled to do so. The club claims they are constrained by the league’s salary cap, even if Messi agreed to a 50% pay cut. However, the Catalan club is burdened by a colossal total debt of €1,173 million, the result of an astronomical wage bill and years of chronic mismanagement.
It is not the first time the relationship between Barcelona and its talisman has broken down. Last year, when the word ‘burofax’ trended, Messi also wanted to leave the club, but this time it seems there is no way back. Barcelona’s salaries account for 110% of its income. Club president Joan Laporta has said in the past that they “do not comply with financial fair play regulations.”
Last season, Barcelona had a salary limit of €347 million and that limit has been reduced again for the upcoming campaign.
Aged 13, Messi joined La Masia in 2000, going on to feature in 778 game for the Blaugrana, scoring 672 goals in a momental trophy haul that included 10 league titles, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups.
It remains to be seen which elite club will come after him. Messi has long been linked with a move to either Paris St-Germain or Manchester City, where he would be reunited with his former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola, but on Wednesday the English champions welcomed Jack Grealish in a deal worth €117 million, becoming the most expensive Premier League player ever.
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