Lionel Messi set to sign new five-year deal with massive pay cut
Lionel Messi is set to extend his stay at Barcelona by signing a new five-year deal, with the Argentine talisman likely to take a wage cut, La Vanguardia newspaper and ESPN reported on Wednesday.
Messi, 34, Barca’s all-time top scorer and appearance maker, technically ended his 21-year association with the club last month and is currently a free agent after his previous contract expired.
Since Joan Laporta took over as president, the club has been trying to reduce their wage bill in order to keep Messi and stay within La Liga’s strict financial control rules.
Spanish league rules limit each club’s spending to only a percentage of club revenue.
La Liga chief Javier Tebas stressed last week that Barcelona, which has a total debt of more than 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion), would not be shown any leniency.
In short, Barca has to cut 200 million euros, or about $240 million, from its wage bill if it has to register new players, including Messi, for next season. (Barca’s decision to allow Messi’s contract to expire last month means he now must be registered as a new signing, instead of a renewal, which might have been easier.)
While Barcelona has collected money at breathtaking speed in recent years — in 2019 it became the first club to surpass $1 billion in annual revenue — it also spent with even more alacrity. Its losses in the past two years have surpassed more than $500 million.
Messi’s last contract, signed in 2017, was the most lucrative in world sport, according to a January report in El Mundo.
The deal, if he met every clause and condition, was worth almost $675 million, a sum so large that it had an inflationary effect on the salaries of all of his teammates, fuelling a payroll that now eats up about three-fourths of Barcelona’s annual revenue.
According to the newspaper, Messi was to get: a salary of about $1.4 million a week; a signing bonus of $139 million; a “loyalty” bonus — to a player it has employed since he was 13 — of $93 million.
The club has been trying to rebuild the squad with Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo and Carles Alena being sold to make way for free signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia. But the league will not register any of them, or Messi, until the club first makes deep cuts to its costs.
For this to happen, Barcelona may be pushed to sell off key players — the German goalkeeper Marc Andre ter Stegen, the Dutch playmaker Frenkie de Jong and even Pedri, the latest locally reared Barcelona starlet.
Messi won his first major international title with Argentina over the weekend when they beat rivals Brazil in the Copa America final.
Written with inputs from Reuters and NYTNS