Barcelona fans were able to heave a huge sigh of relief this week after it was confirmed that Lionel Messi had agreed a new five-year deal with the Catalans.
The announcement puts an end to months of speculation over the Argentine’s future after he became a free agent following the expiration of his initial contract at the end of June.
Messi is expected to take a massive 50% pay cut to enable Barcelona to keep him, an arrangement which has left many wondering what else might be in his deal.
Reports indicated that Messi’s release clause will be pegged at €350 million to deter clubs, including Manchester City and PSG from trying to sign him.
The five-year deal reportedly agreed by Messi is, in theory, going to keep Messi at Barcelona until 2026 but it appears the Argentine is realistically expected to remain at the Camp Nou for just two years.
After that he could move to an affiliate club in the MLS as the club’s ambassador, effectively remaining on Barca’s payroll until the expiration of his new deal.
Messi’s previous contract was worth about €500 million over four years and the 50% cut will see him earn around €250 million.
Despite agreeing the deal, things may not be completely smooth sailing for the Blaugrana.
La Liga President, Javier Tebas has already warned that Barcelona might not be able to register Messi, and their other signings includinf Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia unless they drive down their wage bill.
“Barcelona have exceeded their wage cap. I hope they can keep Messi, but to do so, they will have to make cuts elsewhere. The severity of the situation depends on the resources they are capable of generating.”
The club had started processes to trim that wage bill, terminating Matheus Fernandes’ contract.
Barcelona tried to do the same with defender Samuel Umtiti and midfielder Miralem Pjanic, hoping their exits would create the space they need to re-sign Messi.
However, Umtiti, in particular, is proving a tad difficult, with the Frenchman unwilling to leave the club until at least the end of next season.
Barcelona told the pair in a letter, sections of which were published by Marca, that “given the current financial situation of the club and the salary limit, we’re giving the player the option to terminate their contract with the club and to leave”.
Pjanic has three years left on his current deal, while Umtiti has two years on his contract and stand to lose €50 million and €35 million should they agree to terminate their contract.
With the players knowing that they won’t earn that salary anywhere else, they are clearly reluctant to give up their current deals.
Barcelona’s wages for the season before last was an amount of €671 million, however, that amount was reduced significantly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
The Spanish top flight’s salary cap for the previous campaign was €382.7 million, with Barcelona given some leeway.