Lionel Messi and Barcelona have reached an agreement for the striker to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, sources have confirmed to ESPN. Sources added that Messi agreed to a significant pay cut to extend his stay.
Messi was a free agent after his Barca contract expired and he had courted the interest of Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City since he first revealed his desire to end his 20-year relationship. years with Barca last summer. The 34-year-old’s previous contract was worth more than 500 million euros ($ 594 million) over four years and expired on June 30 at the stroke of midnight.
However, with Joan Laporta’s return as president in March, Messi has become more open to staying at Camp Nou. An official announcement is expected in the coming days.
Laporta had hoped to finalize a deal before Messi’s previous terms expired. However, Barca’s financial woes made that impossible, with gross debt exceeding € 1 billion. The cuts have been essential, in terms of transferring players, cutting the payroll and accepting Messi’s lower pay.
La Liga president Javier Tebas had warned Barca that he would not be allowed to save Messi’s new deal if he was unable to cut spending to comply with the financial fair play rules of the league. Barca’s spending limit has been reduced from more than € 600m to € 347m since the coronavirus pandemic, and further cuts are expected to be imposed for the coming season.
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Messi is on vacation with his family after his Copa America glory with Argentina last weekend, which was his first senior trophy with his national team.
He will join Ronald Koeman’s side later in the summer, with Barca’s league campaign kicking off on August 15 against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.
Messi first expressed a desire to leave Barca last August after the 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. His relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu had reached a breaking point. In an interview with Goal in September 2020, after Barca blocked his departure, Messi called Bartomeu a “liar” and said the board “was making things up as they go” and “plugging things up. holes’ for years.
Bartomeu, facing a vote of no confidence, resigned last October and was eventually replaced by Laporta in March. Laporta has a good relationship with Messi and his family. He was the president of Barca when Messi made his first-team debut and when he signed his first professional contract with the club.
Sources told ESPN in April that Laporta was working on a contract renewal for Messi that included the option of playing in Major League Soccer before returning to Barcelona.
In public and in private, Laporta had always maintained that he was “convinced” that he could persuade Messi to stay. The club have already signed a series of signings this summer, involving Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, as well as the recall of Emerson Royal.
Messi first joined Barca’s academy in 2000 and played 778 games for the club, breaking Xavi Hernandez’s record for appearing last season. He scored 672 goals, another club record, and helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.