Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi will end his 20-year career with Barcelona, despite both parties having reached an agreement over a new contract, “Although an agreement has been reached between FC Barcelona and Messi it cannot be formalised due to economic and structural obstacles,” the La Liga club said.
“Faced with this situation, Lionel Messi will not remain linked to Barcelona. Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the club cannot come true,” a statement from the club said.
34-year-old Messi, in July won a major international trophy with Argentina when they beat rivals Brazil to win the Copa America.
Ever since, he tried to leave in August 2020 as a free agent, there had been doubts over his continuation at Barcelona, citing a clause in his contract and saying the club had “no project or anything for a long time”.
Barca’s all-time top scorer and appearance maker, Lionel Messi finally agreed to leave the final year as the club had threatened to go to court.
Messi, who signed his first contract with Barca on a napkin when he was just 13, has been a free agent since June 30 when his old agreement expired after he had played 788 games with 672 goals for the club.
There were speculations that Messi would sign on for two years and then probably head to Major League Soccer, although his friend and former Barca mate Neymar said he would love to team up with him again at Paris Saint Germain.
After his deal ran out at the end of June, the Argentina forward was free to negotiate a transfer with other clubs, but Barcelona had always maintained that he wanted to stay with the club.
Barcelona have been toiling under debts of more than one million euros and are under pressure to reduce their wage bill.
In 2013, La Liga introduced financial “fair play” regulations setting up a maximum amount of money each club can spend on its playing team and coaching staff each season, accommodated by their income.
Meanwhile Barcelona has recruited new players who were likely to please Messi, such as Sergio Aguero who joined as a free agent on a two-year deal from the Catalan side in Manchester City.
According to January report by the newspaper El Mundo, 555 million euros were paid to Messi over four seasons from November 2017 to the end of last month.
Making a formal request for an exit after a break down in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu in August 2020, Messi had tried to leave Barcelona, but successor Joan Laporta convinced him to stay.
Messi, however had been tight lipped about his plans.
In the past year, he granted just two interviews, one in December and the other at the end of the season. Both times he said “nothing has been decided”.
But Laporta had made keeping Messi on the team a priority after he was re-elected as Barcelona president in March, “Leo loves Barca and knows that we are a big family. Hopefully that can help us encourage him to stay,” he had said then.
The former president Bartomeu was forced to resign in October after the club’s members succeeded in attaining a vote of no confidence against him following Messi’s attempt to leave.
End of an era
The Argentine, who single-handedly took Barcelona to many memorable wins during his heydays, remains without a club ahead of the 2021-22 season.
He helped Barca claim 10 league titles, four Champions Leagues and three Club World Cups among his haul of 35 trophies.
Lionel Messi quits Barcelona leaving fans heartbroken with the sudden development.