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Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona: Argentina captain won’t sign new contract

Barcelona have revealed that Lionel Messi will leave the club after financial problems prevented them from agreeing with the forward on a new contract.

Messi, 34, has been a free agent since his previous terms expired on June 30, but ESPN disclosed in July that a loose agreement over a five-year extension had been reached.

However, Barca have been unable to register Messi’s new contract with LaLiga while complying with the league’s financial fair play rules. President Joan Laporta is expected to address the situation in a news conference on Friday.

Barcelona said in a statement: “Despite having reached an agreement with Messi and with both parties clearly wanting to sign a new contract, it cannot be finalised due to financial and structural problems [rules relating to the Spanish league].

“Given this situation, Messi will not continue his relationship with Barcelona. Both parties lament deeply that the desires of the player and the club cannot be met.

“Barca would like to wholeheartedly thank the player for his contribution to the growth of the institution and wish him the best in his personal and professional life.”

Sources at Paris Saint-Germain have told ESPN’s Julien Laurens they stay confident the club would still be able to confirm a deal for Messi should he actually leave Barcelona — but they are skeptical of that happening, believing the latest move to be a bluff intended to keep him at Camp Nou. Sources have said that Messi’s camp made contact with PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi and sporting director Leonardo after Barca’s announcement on Thursday.

PSG representatives have worked for weeks on negotiating a move for Messi that would also see Neymar and Kylian Mbappe remain in Paris but sources have told ESPN that previously the club never felt it was a deal that could realistically come off, with Messi always expected to stay at Barcelona.

It is not clear if Manchester City, meanwhile, would enter the bidding.

The Premier League champions wanted Messi last summer but signed Jack Grealish on Thursday for £100 million and sources close to the club made contradictory comments when approached by ESPN. Some ruled it out completely; others left it up in the air.

Spanish clubs must comply with a spending limit, which involves money spent on salaries and signings, determined by LaLiga.

Barca’s spending stood at over €600 million before the coronavirus pandemic but was reduced to €347m last season and is expected to be slashed even further for the upcoming campaign.

Therefore, to register Messi’s new contract with the league, the Catalan club needed to reduce their wage bill or bring in a significant amount of money in transfers.

However, the club have failed to move on big earners such as Miralem Pjanic, Philippe Coutinho and Samuel Umtiti and have so far failed to reach an agreement with some of the club’s longer-serving players over wage cuts. Talks are ongoing with Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Sergi Roberto over salary adjustments.

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