The six-time Ballon d’Or winner was officially a free agent on July 1 after failing to agree on terms for a renewal before his previous contract with Barcelona expired on June 30.
Earlier in July, Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title with a 1-0 final victory over hosts Brazil, ending his wait for a first major international trophy.
The 34-year-old has now agreed to stay at his childhood club for another five years, meaning he will be 39 when his new contract ends – while he will have totaled 26 years on the books of the club.
Messi sparked a heated transfer dispute in August last year, when he officially informed the club of his wish to activate a clause in his contract that would have seen him leave for free.
However, La Liga president Javier Tebas and Josep Maria Bartomeu – then Barcelona president – blocked the decision, saying the clause was only active until June 10 and any contender would have to pay the full amount. of his release clause of 700 million euros.
“I thought and we were sure I would be a free agent,” Messi told Goal.
“The president always told me that I could decide to stay or go at the end of the season and they are now clinging to the fact that I hadn’t said anything by June 10, when it turns out that on June 10, June la La The La Liga season was still in progress and we were in the midst of this virus and this disease which changed the entire fixture list.
“And that’s the reason I stay at the club. I am staying now because the president told me that the only way for me to leave was to pay the € 700 million release clause, which is impossible. “
Bartomeu then resigned in October, while Messi wanted to listen to the plans of his successor Joan Laporta before deciding on his future.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been the top clubs interested in signing him. Messi also wants to play in MLS one day.
Messi Q&A: How Barcelona can afford a deal
Spanish football specialist Euan McTear explains to Sky Sports News why Messi delayed pledging his future at Camp Nou, and the possible repercussions of the new five-year contract …
Why did Barcelona offer such a long contract?
“The reason it’s a five-year deal is that it’s likely Messi will play the next two years, but it’s a longer deal to keep him linked to the club as ambassador. But the discussion is that he could go to MLS after two years while still being paid by the club.
“It’s a way for Barcelona to spread the payment over five years. That’s part of the reason he was able to take such a massive reduction of around 50%. “
Will a 50% pay cut work for Barcelona?
“It could, but they will still have work to do. Messi has been convinced to stay for a while now, but one of the reasons they haven’t been able to register him so far is due to La Liga regulations. They have very strict financial control rules, where you can’t sign up new players until you follow their guidelines.
“They have to wipe a lot of salaries off their books and they’re still working to do it. This is why it has been reported that they could strike a swap deal with Saul Niguez at Atletico Madrid and Antoine Griezmann. This would partly free the top of Griezmann salary to then pay Messi.
So will Griezmann be sacrificed for Messi?
“There is a lot of talk in Spain that Griezmann will return to Atletico Madrid, but their fans will not consider Saul leaving at all. Diego Simeone wants Griezmann back at the club, and he’s very responsible so if he wants something he just might get it.
“Griezmann is currently in Ibiza on vacation but is on hold and ready to travel to Madrid if this swap deal goes through. This is a way for Barcelona to save around 12 million euros in salary. “
How did Barcelona encounter financial problems?
“The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone – it has affected clubs Real Madrid, Atletico and the Premier League. But Barcelona were already in a bad situation mainly due to mismanagement under the Bartomeu administration which preceded the regime led by Joan Laporta.
“They were just waiting for a natural disaster or a pandemic to push them through and create all kinds of problems, and that’s exactly what happened. “