Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona after ‘obstacles’ thwart contract renewal

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<span>Photograph: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Barcelona have announced that Lionel Messi is leaving the club after “financial and structural obstacles” made it impossible to renew his contract. The forward, who has spent his whole career there, had been expected to re-sign after his deal expired in June.

Paris Saint-Germain have contacted Messi’s representatives to explore whether signing him may be possible. The Argentina international turned down approaches from PSG and Manchester City some months ago, having decided he wanted to continue with Barcelona, and he is expected to take his time to see how events unfold.

Related: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are costly albatrosses weighing their clubs down | Jonathan Wilson

“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),” the Catalan club said.

“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.”

Last month Messi agreed in principle to a five-year deal on reduced wages rather than a two-year extension initially discussed. It had been hoped the agreement would keep Barcelona within the boundaries of La Liga’s financial fair play regulations but that has proved impossible.

Barcelona needed to move players out to renew Messi’s deal and they have not been able to find the solution. The club, whose total debt is about €1,173m, are constrained by the league’s salary cap. Messi has agreed to a 50% pay cut, dropping from about €45m basic, after tax, to closer to €20m.

Barcelona fans gather in front of the Camp Nou on Thursday night after hearing that Lionel Messi was leaving the club.
Barcelona fans gather in front of the Camp Nou on Thursday night after hearing that Lionel Messi was leaving the club. Photograph: Pau Barrena/AFP/Getty Images

The question is where Messi, who was 34 in June, will play this season. He tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020 after a breakdown in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu but was forced to stay. Now, when he was keen to continue for longer, it appears he is being made to go. Barcelona’s salaries currently account for about 110% of their income and their president, Joan Laporta, has admitted: “We do not comply with financial fair play regulations.” Laporta is due to address the media at 10am UK time on Friday.

In 2019-20 Barcelona’s salary limit was €671m, last season it was €347m, and the figure this season is substantially smaller again. Salary caps in Spain, shorthand for limits applied to all pre-tax spending on the squad, are not subject to punishments handed out retrospectively but are applied in advance.

Messi has made 778 appearances for Barcelona, scoring 672 goals which have helped to secure 10 league titles, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups among his haul of 35 trophies.

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