Football icon Lionel Messi has officially left Barcelona after disagreements between him and the club over his contract as a result of increasing financial concerns.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has officially been a free agent since July 1 after his contract expired, yet there were constant talks over his renewal, with an agreement being close just a few hours before it was announced that Barcelona would allow him to leave.
The initial contract offer would have been a new five-year contract that would have his salary halved due to the club facing mounting financial issues mainly as a result of bad investments in players over the years, and also due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, the club stated on Thursday that this offer could not be fulfilled as a result of “financial and structural obstacles”, meaning that they are not able to fund Messi’s stay, and thus he has left after 21 years there.
Speaking during a press conference on Friday, new Barcelona president Joan Laporta claimed that “The calamitous management of the previous board meant we exceeded the limit and we don’t have time to revert that situation”.
The new contract offer would go against La Liga’s financial criteria, with Laporta confirming that “We thought that the contract was within La Liga’s criteria, it works fine in other countries but here, it wasn’t accepted.”
“We had hoped that the post-Messi era would start in two years’ time, but now we have to bring that forward by two years. It wasn’t to be.”
Speaking on the dire financial situation that the club is in, he said that they “had predicted losses of around €200 million, but they will be closer to €487 million which is a lot” and that “It means we must work harder for the impact it will have on our sponsorship deals.”
Laporta concluded the press conference by thanking Messi for his time at the club, and saying that “Leo Messi has done everything possible for this operation to reach an end. He cannot be faulted at all for any of this.”
Messi was eager to stay at Barcelona, and he had not considered any other clubs this summer, yet he and his father – who is also his agent – are now looking at moves to other clubs in the coming days.
The 34-year-old originally put in a transfer request last summer, but potential moves were practically called off due to the astronomical €700 million release clause inserted in his contract at the time, with clubs not being able to afford it, especially during the pandemic.
However, since he is now a free agent, several clubs are keen on potentially securing the services of the Argentine, especially since his huge wages are basically outweighed by the commercial benefits that his arrival could bring about in the form of shirt sales and other marketing strategies.
Paris Saint-Germain are now the favourites to land the signature of the four-time UEFA Champions League winner, believing that they can sign him without breaking any Financial Fair Play rules, with his friendship with Neymar being a key factor in the deal.
Messi played in 778 games for Barcelona since his first-team debut in 2004/05, scoring 672 goals and providing 305 assists, winning plenty of trophies, including ten La Liga titles, seven Copa del Rey titles and four UEFA Champions Leagues, also being the Spanish club’s all-time top scorer.
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