Messi to leave Barcelona due to ‘financial, structural obstacles’

Striker to leave Spanish club despite both parties having reached an agreement over a new contract.

Messi, who joined Barca's youth set-up aged 13, is the club's all-time top scorer [File: Albert Gea/Reuters]

Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona despite both parties reaching an agreement over a new contract, the La Liga club said on Thursday, citing economic and structural obstacles to the renewal of the deal.

“Although an agreement has been reached between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi it cannot be formalised due to economic and structural obstacles,” said a statement from the club.

“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.”

The Argentinian made no immediate public statement.

Messi, who joined Barca’s youth set-up aged 13, is the club’s all-time top scorer with 672 in a record 778 appearances.

The Argentinian has been named the world’s best player a record six times.

Messi was free to negotiate a transfer with other clubs after his deal ran out at the end of June but Barcelona had always maintained he wanted to stay with the club.

Messi had tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a breakdown in his relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu.

But his successor Joan Laporta, who presided over the Argentinian’s rise to stardom, convinced him to stay.

It was unclear whether Messi was already in talks with other clubs, but he has previously been linked with cash-rich Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain.

La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Levante
Messi previously tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020 after a breakdown in his relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu [File: Albert Gea/Reuters]

Football journalist Gavin Hamilton told Al Jazeera that Messi leaving Barcelona “was not that shocking”.

“The problems at Barcelona run very deep financially,” Hamilton said. “The contract was proving very difficult to negotiate. There are additional problems with the Spanish league in terms of their budget for next season. They have to stay within a very strict wage budget.”

La Liga introduced financial control measures in 2013, establishing a maximum amount of money each club can spend on its playing squad and coaching staff each season, conditioned by their income.

Barca has the highest revenues in world football, according to this year’s Deloitte Money League, although income dropped by 125 million euros ($148m) last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spanish media reported Barcelona had been in talks with their top-earning players, including Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Sergi Roberto, about reducing their salaries by 40 percent in return for contract extensions.

Messi’s Barcelona trophies

Champions League – 4

La Liga titles – 10

Spanish Cups – 7

European Super Cups – 3

Spanish Super Cups – 8

Club World Cups – 3

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies