February 1 – Reportedly on the verge of bankruptcy with massive debts, Barcelona say they will take “appropriate legal action” against Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it published details of Lionel Messi’s eye-watering contract.
El Mundo claimed the deal has “ruined” Barcelona and manager Ronald Koeman has called on the club to sack any employee who may have been responsible for the leak.
Reports in Spain claimed there were only four copies of the contract: one with Messi, one with Barca, one with La Liga and one with the law firm used by the Argentine.
But on Sunday, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that Messi’s four-year deal, signed in 2017, was the most expensive ever awarded to an athlete and that it has caused Barca’s current financial crisis.
El Mundo said it had access to the document the Argentine superstar signed in 2017 and that it is worth €555m and includes fixed incomes and extras that could reach nearly €138 million each year.
The report added Messi, 33, has already secured more than €510 million of the total.
Barcelona denied responsibility for leaking the document and reacted angrily: “The club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties.”
“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.”
The club expressed its “absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
On the pitch Messi scored in a 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao that lifted Barca into second place for the first time this season, though the gap behind Atlético Madrid is 10 points.
“We have to try to find out how this got to the press,” said an angry Koeman. “If someone from the club leaked this, that person can’t have a future in this club.”
“I don’t understand how you can associate Messi with Barcelona’s problems. He has been showing his quality as a player for many years and has helped make this club great.”
“Whoever published this had bad intentions and wanted to cause Barca damage. But we have to be united and focused, we have to forget about whatever has been published. Without Leo we couldn’t aspire to win very much. We have known for a very long time that he is the best player in the world, he has done so much for this club and is decisive.”
Messi has been with Barcelona for nearly two decades but asked to leave at the end of last season. Although his request was denied he will be able to leave for free when the current campaign ends.
Barca have been without a president since Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned in October and are due to hold elections on March 7.
In December, interim president Carlos Tusquets claimed the club should have sold Messi last summer when he wanted to go.
“Both in terms of what you save on the wage bill as well as the money you make, it would’ve been desirable,” he said at the time.
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