Lionel Messi’s contract with Barcelona came to an end Wednesday with no news from the player or the club about his future.
The expectation is that the 34-year-old Messi, who is playing with Argentina at the Copa America, will stay at the Catalan club. He reportedly had been close to reaching a deal to extend his contract for two more years.
Messi’s future has been a mystery since he had his request to leave the club denied at the end of the 2019-20 season. He ended up staying and said he would reconsider his options when this season was over.
A lot has changed since he announced he wanted to leave the club. That decision was made not long after the team’s embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, one of the worst defeats in the club’s and Mess’s history. But since then, Barcelona has a new coach in Ronald Koeman and a new president after the resignation of Josep Bartomeu, who was at odds with Messi.
In came Joan Laporta, who won the club’s presidential election in part because of his good relationship with the Argentina star. He was the president when Messi’s career started. Laporta said recently he was optimistic that Messi would renew his contract. When asked about Messi’s future on Wednesday, he briefly said “don’t worry.”
Messi excelled again this season despite staying against his wishes. He led the Spanish league in scoring with 30 goals and helped the team win the Copa del Rey title.
In Messi’s previous contract, signed in 2017, he reportedly earned 138 million euros ($164 million) per season.
Playing in Barcelona’s favor to keep Messi is the fact the club has been slowly improving financially amid the coronavirus pandemic. Koeman is staying for a second season, and some players are arriving to boost the squad, including Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia.
Messi has won 35 titles in 17 seasons with Barcelona. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish league 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times.
While with the club, Messi earned himself a record six Ballon d’Or awards. He is the team’s all-time leading scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances, and the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches. He also is the player with most matches with the club.
Analysis: What next for Messi?
By Mike McGrath
Why is Messi still at Barcelona?
He believed he could inform Barca he was leaving on a free transfer during a post-season window in the summer. Barca said they needed his request by June 10, even though football was still being played due to the season being delayed for the coronavirus pandemic. La Liga backed Barca and said his £625million buyout clause was valid.
Who could sign him for free?
Only a clutch of teams could afford Messi, who has been revealed to be earning £492million over the length of his last four-year contract. Paris Saint-Germain have been linked with him. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola also previously worked with Messi but the club say there have been no negotiations.
Could he leave Europe?
David Beckham has recently spoken about taken players such as Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to Inter Miami where his team are looking to make a huge impression in MLS in America. China has imposed spending limits on new signings and is no longer the destination to earn huge wages. Messi’s former team-mates Xavi and Andres Iniesta headed to Qatar and Japan respectively after leaving post-Barcelona.
Will we see Messi in the Premier League?
The fact Messi has waited until the Barca elections shows that he is willing to listen to the next president after clashing with Josep Bartomeu. City are the only team in the Premier League who would have a chance of signing him but putting together a deal will not be straightforward. Bookmakers make City favourites to land him. Perhaps he would be the only player in the world who would break the club’s model of refusing to pay over market value.