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Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona after 21 years as contract talks break down

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FC Barcelona have announced that club captain Lionel Messi will not extend his contract and that he will leave the side as a free agent.

Messi has been a free agent since July 1, 2021, after his deal expired over the summer. And while he was expected to renew his contract, Barcelona’s troubling finances have led to an otherwise situation.

According to reports, Messi had a new five-year contract on the table and was ready to reduce his weekly wages by 50 per cent. But the club’s current financial situation has made it difficult for them to register new players while complying with La Liga’s financial fair play rules. 

"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),” Barcelona said 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," it added.

Barcelona’s troubling state has not only led to Messi’s departure but they are also in talks with their senior players like Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto to reduce their wages by 40 per cent as part of their contract extension.

To sign or register new players, the Catalan club needed to reduce their wage bill or bring in a significant amount from transfer sales. They did put the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Samuel Umtiti and Martin Braithwaite in the transfer market, but the lack of potential suitors means the club has nowhere to go at the moment.

Meanwhile, Messi’s current situation has alerted Ligue 1 side Paris Saint-Germain big time. It is said that the Argentine’s representatives made contact with the French team soon after Barcelona’s announcement and PSG are, in fact, confident that if this deal does go through, they will be able to convince Neymar and Kylian Mbappe to extend their stay. 

As far as Manchester City are concerned, they might have to pull themselves out of contention after signing Jack Grealish for a British record fee of £100 million from Aston Villa.

Messi was on the verge of leaving Barcelona last summer after he had a falling out with the then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu but as the matter headed into a legal battle, the forward decided to back out.

Messi joined Barcelona as a teenager in 2000 and has gone on to make 778 appearances for the club, the most by any player in the club’s history. During this time, he scored 672 goals and won 10 LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies. 

Featured photo: AFP / Pau Barrena

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