Barcelona’s poor finances have become a stumbling block for Lionel Messi to sign another contract, according to club president Joan Laporta.
Messi was officially no longer a Barcelona player on Thursday, after his contract expired. This happened 16 years after the striker signed his first professional contract with the club, which he joined at the age of 13.
Laporta continues to express a cautiously optimistic tone when asked if he is close to convincing Messi to stay in place. Laporta was president of the club when teenager Messi broke through. He returned to lead the club in March after winning an election with a promise to use his good relationship with Messi to keep him.
Late Wednesday, Laporte told a popular sports talk radio show that the deal was followed only because of the strict financial rules for fair play in the Spanish league.
“We want him to stay, and Leo wants to stay, everything is going well,” Laporta told Onda Cero radio. “We still have to deal with the issue of financial fair play. We are in the process of finding the best solution for both parties. “
Barcelona’s top scorer is in Brazil, leading Argentina in the Copa America, away from the noise of the Camp Nou.
Barcelona’s finances suffered a huge blow last season when the dubious management of the club’s previous board was worsened by a drop in revenue provoked by the pandemic.
When Laporta returned to power, he inherited a club burdened with a debt of 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.4 billion) and massive contracts that former club president Josep Bartomeu gave to players, including Messi.
Messi’s previous contract, signed in 2017, brought him a remarkable 138 million euros ($ 164 million) per season. Laporta said that Messi is ready to undertake a significant reduction in salaries, but the club is clearly struggling to make the numbers work.
Laporta recently said that Barcelona’s finances were “worse than I imagined.” He said the payroll plus other payments was 650 million euros ($ 771 million).
The Spanish league has reduced the salary cap for Barcelona from 671 million euros (796 million dollars) for the 2019-20 season to only 383 million euros (454 million dollars) for the last campaign.
A new salary cap is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, but Barcelona’s finances are still expected to be much more generous. The salary cap is proportional to 70% of a club’s revenue.
While the 34-year-old Messi is still the team’s best player, other players for whom the club has spent a lot in recent years have given mixed results. Their high salaries now make it difficult to transfer to other clubs. As Laporta recently told La Vanguardia, “the salaries of Barcelona’s players are not comparable to those of other clubs.”
Last season, the club practically gave Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid to lower his salary. The Uruguay striker continued to lead Atletico to the league title.
Laporta now faces an equally difficult choice with players such as Antoine Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho and Usmane Dembele. Bartomeu spent a lot of money to sign all three, but none of them justified their costs.
Forced to be creative, Barcelona signed this free agents this summer to avoid transfer fees.
Sports media link Messi with a possible move to Paris Saint-Germain to reunite with Neymar, or with Manchester City to play again for Pep Guardiola. But those rumors have subsided in recent weeks. And while Messi may be free, his shirt is still on sale in a Barcelona store.