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Messi to leave Barcelona after 21-year association
Lionel Messi has applied maximum pressure on Spanish football authorities to relax spending limits by announcing his departure from Barcelona and inviting Paris St-Germain to bid for him as a free agent.
Messi, currently the greatest player in the world as Ballon d’Or holder, reached an agreement with Barcelona over a new contract but it did not pass La Liga’s financial regulations, and the club released a statement on Thursday night declaring that the Argentina forward had left.
Manchester City have looked at Messi previously but distanced themselves from the most stunning free transfer in football history, while PSG sources were also wary of the cost of a deal. Both clubs are part of a small group who could afford a package if Messi’s stand-off is not resolved.
City have been concentrating on signing Jack Grealish in a £100 million record buy for a Premier League club and also want Harry Kane, and it remains to be seen if Messi’s release will change their focus in the market. Their interest was genuine when Messi tried to leave before, only to remain at the Nou Camp.
He stated last season he was staying at Barca this season to avoid taking his club to court over being denied a free transfer, insisting his decision to quit was made because of the decline of the Spanish club over a period of years.
“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),” read Barca’s 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. 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.”
La Liga has recently agreed a deal worth £2.3 billion with private equity firm, CVC Capital Partners, to give a cash injection to Spanish football, but existing “obstacles” to the Messi deal prevented it from being completed. Last season Barca’s wage cap was €347 million (£295 million) and it has been reduced again.
After 21 years at the club, Messi could still re-sign for Barca as a free agent should La Liga ratify his agreed contract offer, which is on reduced terms to his previous deal but was dependent on players being sold to balance the books.
PSG have been seen as the most likely destination if Messi’s deal is not sanctioned. Their biggest asset, Kylian Mbappe, is wanted by Real Madrid and selling him for a world-record fee and acquiring Messi on a free transfer would balance out their spending.
Sources only expect moves late in the window, rather than as a reaction to the Messi’s announcement that he is available.
Messi had dinner with PSG players Neymar, Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes and Marco Verratti in Ibiza on the eve of the announcement and the French club are coached by his fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino. In another twist, it is understood that Messi was upset that Barca did not follow through on his recommendation to sign Argentina centre-back Cristian Romero from Atalanta, who is heading to Tottenham Hotspur in a £47million deal.
The 23-year-old’s performances for his country in the last year has seen his team-mates earmark him as a world star of the future. Last September, Messi battled with Barcelona over his departure before announcing he would stay. He thought he was free to leave last summer under the terms of his contract stating he had to tell the club his intentions by June 10, but the season was still going due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Barca stood firm and insisted he would only be allowed to leave for his £625 million release clause, with Messi opting to stay rather than going to court despite his father Jorge issuing a letter on behalf of his son accusing La Liga of making an error.
He has been free to talk to clubs about a pre-contract since January for the 2021/22 season, although he is not thought to be in direct negotiations with anyone at the moment.
“I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not,” Messi told Goal.com.
“Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.”
Reaction to Messi's exit, as it happened
That's all from me
But read Mike McGrath's above story for a full recap of the Messi situation.
I think we can all agree 2016/17 was a bad miss
Disastrous spending, a rancorous presidency and power struggles - Barcelona has crumbled around Lionel Messi
Barcelona are broke. Their total debts exceed €1 billion and will be revealed in full when the next annual financial reports are published this summer. The club say they have an agreement with Messi for his new contract but under Liga rules, which set wage caps according to 12-month revenue projections, they might as well be paying their No 10 in seashells and bottle tops. Two years ago, Barcelona’s Liga-set wage cap exceeded €600m. They are expected to announce losses of around €300m this year which will be deducted from future revenue projections, thus triggering a severe adjustment in the club’s wage capacity. Now it is likely to be capped in the low €200m region.
There is a chance Messi could still stay at Barcelona
It is worth noting that Messi could still re-sign for Barca as a free agent should La Liga ratify his agreed contract offer, which is on reduced terms to his previous deal but was dependent on players being sold to balance the books.
The big question is will La Liga stand firm?
Some Barcelona fans have gathered outside the Nou Camp following the news
This highlight video could probably have been about an hour and a half long
And now the lows
By Sam Dean
Messi joins Barcelona at the age of 13 but struggles with homesickness at the start. “I always came back from Rosario crying,” he has said.
Injury anguish, 2006
Messi misses Barcelona’s 2006 Champions League final against Arsenal due to injury. He was so devastated that he did not take part in the celebrations after Barcelona’s victory.
Court conviction, 2016
Messi and his father, Jorge, are convicted of defrauding Spain £3.5m in taxes. The Messis were sentenced to 21 months in prison but that was later changed to a fine.
Anfield humiliation, 2019
After scoring twice in the first leg to help his team to a 3-0 lead, Messi is helpless in the second leg of the Champions League semi-final as Barcelona are overrun by Liverpool.
Bayern thrashing, 2020
More embarrassment for Barcelona as they concede a gruelling eight goals to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-final. Questions are asked of Messi’s own performance.
The highs and lows of Messi's Barca career
By Sam Dean
First the highs:
First goal, 2005
Messi, aged only 17, races onto a chipped pass from Ronaldinho and lobs the Albacete goalkeeper at the Camp Nou. He has arrived.
Hat-trick in El Clasico, 2007
A 19-year-old Messi scores his first-ever hat-trick for Barcelona, and he does so against their fiercest rivals. The world is now taking notice.
Champions League glory, 2009
Messi scores a brilliant header against Manchester United to help Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona win the Champions League in Rome. He later wins his first Ballon d’Or.
Another Champions League triumph, 2011
Guardiola’s Barcelona reach their pinnacle as a team with a majestic display against Manchester United at Wembley. Messi scores and is named man of the match.
Hitting new heights, 2012
Messi scores an incredible 91 goals (for club and country) in one calendar year, surpassing Gerd Muller’s record of 85 goals in 1972. He also registers 24 assists.
Another treble, 2015
Messi leads Barcelona to another treble, helping them to win La Liga, the Copa del Rey and the Champions League. His performance in the Champions League semi-final, against Pep Guardiola’s Bayern Munich, was one of his finest.
Record sixth Ballon d’Or, 2019
Messi lifts a record sixth Ballon d’Or, awarded to the world’s best player, after leading Barcelona to yet another La Liga title.
Gary is not impressed
Club statement. How on earth have they got themselves in to this predicament? Mess que un club. https://t.co/0OFFHn4ItU
— Gary Lineker 💙 (@GaryLineker) August 5, 2021
Lionel Messi has had an eventful last 12 months at the Nou Camp - here are the key moments
August 14, 2020 - Messi and Barcelona are humiliated as they crash out of the Champions League following an 8-2 thrashing by eventual winners Bayern Munich in their one-off quarter-final clash.
August 17 - Head coach Quique Setien pays the price for the crushing Bayern defeat and finishing second to Real Madrid in LaLiga as he is sacked just over eight months after taking charge at the Nou Camp - his relationship with Messi had reportedly turned sour.
August 19 - Former Barca midfielder Ronald Koeman leaves his job as manager of Holland to take over from Setien, with reports claiming he told Messi he would no longer have the "privileges" he had become accustomed to.
August 25 - Messi sends a burofax to Barcelona chiefs informing them he wishes to leave - with claims of disagreements between the player and the club of the validity of a contract clause which would allow him to move away for free.
August 30 - Messi does not turn up for his scheduled Covid-19 test ahead of Barcelona's start to pre-season training - meaning he cannot join in with Koeman's plans. Later in the day LaLiga issues a statement siding with Barcelona in the dispute over whether Messi can depart for nothing.
September 4 - Messi says he will stay at the club for the season as it is "impossible" for another team to pay his release clause, reported to be around £600m.
October 27 - Josep Maria Bartomeu resigns as Barcelona president.
March 7, 2021 - Joan Laporta is named Barcelona's new president and says he hopes to keep Messi at the club.
July 1 - Messi's contract expires, making him a free agent.
July 11 - Messi is named player of the tournament as he helps Argentina win the Copa America - his first senior international trophy.
August 5 - Barcelona, reported to be facing serious financial problems, announce that despite reaching an agreement over a new contract, Messi is unable to sign because of "LaLiga regulation on players' registration". The club say that as a result of the situation, "Messi shall not be staying at FC Barcelona".
Where will Lionel Messi go next after Barcelona announce his departure?
Manchester City, PSG, or his boyhood club of Newell’s Old Boys could be viable options for the Argentinian star
Sam Dean surveys the possibilities.
Messi's contract situation is as follows
Messi's last contract, signed in 2017, was the most lucrative in world sport according to a January report in newspaper El Mundo.
Messi had tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a break down in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu but successor Joan Laporta, who presided over the Argentine's rise to greatness, convinced him to stay.
The Argentine, who helped Barcelona claim 10 league titles, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups among his haul of 35 trophies, now remains without a club ahead of the 2021-22 season.
Barcelona have been struggling financially for a while
Barcelona have been struggling to reduce their wage bill to be in line with La Liga's FFP rules for the 2021-22 season.
La Liga introduced financial control measures in 2013 establishing a maximum amount of money each club can spend on its playing squad and coaching staff each season, conditioned by their income.
Barca have the highest revenues in world soccer according to this year's Deloitte Money League, although income dropped by 125 million euros last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Spanish media reported Barca had been in talks with their top-earning players such as vice-captains Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto about reducing their salaries by 40 per cent in return for contract extensions.
Barca had also been trying to sell high-earning players including Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite but have not yet found suitors for them.
The Catalan club's president Joan Laporta will hold a news conference on Friday morning in the wake of Messi's exit.
In other news... Jack Grealish to Man City has been confirmed!
John Percy has the inside story on the £100m deal - here is a snippet:
Inevitably, there will be accusations that Grealish has jumped ship and joined City for the money. He will, of course, be guaranteed a significant uplift in salary but that is completely missing the point and underestimating his ambition. Grealish will be 26 in September and “giving it another year” at Villa is clearly not a risk he feels he can take when trophies are the target.
This is an outstanding stat...
In the time it took Lionel Messi to score 672 goals for Barcelona, Tony Pulis' teams scored 696 goals. A glorious win for Pulis.
— Richard Jolly (@RichJolly) August 5, 2021
So, onto the big question - where will Messi go next?
Man City were heavily linked with Messi at one point - but with Jack Grealish expected to sign immintently and Harry Kane another target, would they have any interest in the 34-year-old?
PSG will be linked with him as they can afford his extortionate wages.
Could a club from left-field come into the reckoning?
Seventeen first-team seasons with Barcelona - a joint record
17 - Lionel Messi 🇦🇷 is the player to have appeared the most seasons for Barcelona (17 level with Xavi Hernández & Carles Rexach), surpassing Andrés Iniesta, Sadurní & Migueli (16 for each one). Mystery#LionelMessi #leomessi #Barca pic.twitter.com/hoN4r0Jcio
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) August 5, 2021
Sergio Aguero signed for Barcelona to play with his old pal Lionel...
And now he is leaving.
Wonder what Aguero thinking
— James Ducker (@TelegraphDucker) August 5, 2021
Messi will leave Barcelona with a staggering record at the Spanish giant
6 Ballons d'Ors
6 European Golden Shoes
8 Pichichi trophies
1 The Best FIFA Men's Players
Lionel Messi won it all with Barcelona. 🐐 pic.twitter.com/sD4hreaUcY
— CBS Sports Golazo (@CBSSportsGolazo) August 5, 2021
This exit has been coming
Lionel Messi is leaving Barcelona
Barcelona said Thursday that Lionel Messi will not stay with the club after Spanish league financial regulations made it impossible for a deal to be reached between the club and the player.
Barcelona said in a statement that a deal for a new contract had been reached but financial "obstacles" made it impossible for the player to remain with the club.
"Despite club and player reaching an agreement and their clear intention to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles," the club said.
It blamed "Spanish league regulations" for not allowing the club to sign a new contract with the player. His previous one had ended on June 30.
"As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona," it said. "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 aggrandizement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life," the statement said.