Despite the fact that the two parties had achieved an agreement on a new contract, Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona, according to the La Liga club, who cited economic and structural barriers to the contract renewal.
Messi, who joined Barcelona’s youth setup at the age of 13, is the club’s all-time leading scorer and appearance maker, having scored 672 goals in 778 games in all competitions.
After his contract expired at the end of June, the Argentina forward was free to discuss a transfer with other clubs, but Barcelona had always maintained that he wanted to stay with the club.
Messi, who has spent his whole career with Barcelona, was anticipated to sign a new five-year contract with the Catalan club, which would have included a 50 percent wage cut.
Barcelona needed to restructure their finances in order to close the deal, but they were unable to do so since they failed to lower their pay bill and stay within La Liga’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) requirements.
Barcelona, which has a total debt of more than 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion), will not be granted any indulgence when it comes to following the league’s tough financial management requirements, according to La Liga president Javier Tebas.
The announcement of Messi’s departure comes a day after La Liga reached an agreement in principle with private equity firm CVC Capital Partners to sell 10% of a newly established company holding most of its business for 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion).
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish La Liga regulations),” Barca said in a statement.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled,” it added.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life,” it further said.