Barcelona President Joan Laporta said La Liga financial fair play rules are preventing Lionel Messi from signing a new deal with the club.
The 34-year-old Messi became a free agent for the first time in his professional career on Thursday when his contract with Barca expired.
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La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned the Catalan club that they will have to cut back in order to register a new Messi deal before next season.
“We want him to stay and Leo wants everything to be on the right track,” Laporta told Onda Cero on Thursday.
“We still have financial fair play [issue] to clarify … we are in the process of finding the best solution for all parties. “
Barca had the highest salary cap in Spain before the pandemic, at € 671m a year, but by March that was almost halved to € 347m.
The eviction began last summer with the departures of Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic, but Barca need to cut their wage bills further to register Messi’s new deal and four summer signings: Sergio Agüero, Eric Garcia, Memphis Depay and Emerson Royal.
So far, Barca have only been able to switch fringe players during the transfer window, with Juan Miranda, Jean-Clair Todibo, Matheus Fernandes and Konrad de la Fuente all leaving. Left-back Junior Firpo is also joining Leeds United.
However, the club has hit a wall when it comes to getting rid of high earners. There has been no movement with Neto, Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho or Miralem Pjanic.
Lionel Messi’s contract with Barcelona has expired. Photo by JOSEP LAGO / AFP via Getty Images
Sources at the club say they expect things to accelerate after the end of Euro 2020 and the Copa America, while they also investigate other ways to cut labor costs.
Any money Barca bring in from transfers could also help raise the salary cap for next season.
Messi’s last four-year deal, which expired on June 30, was worth over € 500 million made up of the signing fees, his salary, bonuses and image rights.
Barca can’t afford to pay him at the same rate and are looking for ways to compensate him over a longer period of time to ensure he doesn’t have to put up with excessive pay cuts.
Options include continuing to pay him an ambassadorial role if he leaves Barca for Major League Soccer in a couple of years, as he requested, and the chance to return to the club in a backroom role afterwards.
Messi was officially registered as a Barcelona player for the first time 20 years ago in 2001 and has been under contract with the club ever since.
He asked to leave last summer but was refused by then President Josep Maria Bartomeu. Laporta has since replaced Bartomeu, and ESPN stated on Wednesday that Messi has become open to extending his stay at Camp Nou as a result.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been watching the situation for the past six months but neither will make a serious game for the Argentina international.
The importance of Messi to becoming a free agent did not go unnoticed, however: the old boys of former Newell club invited him to social media, while the Brazilian Ibis Sport Club promised him “the worst time in the world” if he failed joins them.