Though I wrote in March that there was a good chance Barcelona would keep Lionel Messi after this season, Wednesday’s news that the GOAT is staying put still surprised me a bit.
That’s because La Liga President Javier Tebas has said for weeks that he would not make an exception to the league’s financial controls (La Liga’s version of FFP is much stricter, and more complicated, than UEFA’s).
More on Tebas and La Liga’s financial controls to come, which we’re all about to hear a ton about, but that can wait.
Is this really happening?
There’s a ton to unpack here. Let’s start by saying that while the new contract probably won’t be official until Thursday or Friday, we should trust that it’s a matter of time before this happens. I say that based on who’s reporting the news right now.
If there’s anyone Stateside we should trust on Barcelona/Messi news, it’s ESPN.com’s Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens, who wrote, “Lionel Messi agrees Barcelona contract, accepts significant wage cut – sources.” The fact that Marca (“Agreement in principle between Messi and Barcelona: the salary is reduced by half”) and As (“Messi, five more years”) also say this is happening makes me that much more confident.
What are the terms of Lionel Messi’s new contract?
Messi, 34, is expected to sign a five-year deal. It’s widely accepted that he’s taking a massive pay cut, with Marca saying he’ll make half as much as he did on his last contract. As, which cites Catalan outlet L’Esportiu, claims Messi will earn €20M ($23.7M) per year under a contract with a €600M ($709M) release clause.
Interestingly, Messi is now expected to sign a five-year deal that would keep him in La Liga for the duration of the contract. There had been rumors he would sign a “five-year” deal that would see him spend just two or three years with Barcelona, before finishing his career with an MLS club, likely Inter Miami.
Will Barcelona be compliant with La Liga’s financial controls?
It’s been no secret that the main reason Barcelona allowed Messi’s last contract to expire on June 30 had to do with La Liga’s financial controls, which we mentioned earlier. Tebas has been adamant that he would make no exception for anyone, not even Barcelona and Messi. He went so far as to point out last week that the league survived the exits of Neymar and Real Madrid in recent years.
La Liga’s financial regulations entail quite a bit more than UEFA’s FFP rules, but the long of the short is that Barcelona, which had a wage limit of €671M in ’19-20 and €347M in ’20-21, is only permitted to spend €160M on wages in ’21-22. The Sparknotes explanation for that: the pandemic decimated revenue for the past two seasons, and the club’s player spending under Josep Maria Bartomeu was completely out of control.
That set up the current summer full of difficult decisions, as the club would either have to let Messi walk and/or shed a number of its highest earners to get everyone registered for the upcoming season.
Who all is Barcelona going to be forced to offload?
The Catalans have terminated a number of small contracts this summer. But even with Messi’s wages drastically reduced, they’re still almost certainly going to have to part ways with a key, desirable (emphasis on desirable) piece or two.
Yes, I mean either a veteran like Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Frenkie de Jong or Antoine Griezmann — or worse, one of their rising young stars like Ansu Fati or Pedri — to get Messi and their summer signings, including Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, registered.
How much does Messi have left in the tank?
Between his age and his quiet-by-his-insane-standards start to the ’20-21 season, you could have been forgiven for thinking Father Time was finally on Messi’s heels last December. But you couldn’t confidently make that case if you watched Messi from January through the end of the season in La Liga, or in the recently concluded Copa America.
It doesn’t make any sense to me given all the miles on his legs, but after Messi just scored 30 goals with nine assists in La Liga — then added four goals and five assists during the Copa America — I feel confident he’ll lead La Liga in goals for two more seasons, if not more. And at this point, I’m also fully on board the Argentina bandwagon at the 2022 World Cup, even if I should know better.