Lionel Messi is now a free agent and Barcelona president Joan Laporta remains confident that he won’t be heading elsewhere… despite the club’s financial “complications”.
The Argentine superstar is officially a free agent after his contract expired at midnight on Wednesday.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner – currently on international duty at the Copa America – has allowed his contract to run down and has been free to talk to clubs outside of Spain since January.
According to British tabloid, Mirror, both Manchester City and PSG have been keen to snap up the 34-year-old, but in recent months – following the exit of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s board and the return of Laporta – it has looked increasingly likely that he will continue his career in Catalunya.
Certainly, that is what Laporta himself believes, telling El Transistor on Wednesday night: “We want Messi to stay and Leo wants to stay, everything is on track.
“We have the issue of fair play, we are in the process of finding the best solution for both parties.”
In Spain, the media is urging calm, seemingly in little doubt that he will remain in La Liga. For his part, Messi wants to remain but it’s not all agreed yet.
But that issue of fair play is one that is making life very difficult for the Blaugrana board at present.
With the club in £1bn worth of debt, they have been able to bring in free agents – Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia – but must sell; Junior Firpo is expected to join Leeds and other bit-part players are being moved on.
But while most members of the first-team squad, including Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, are available for transfer, finding a willing buyer isn’t so simple.
Barca have been paying extortionate wages, well above market value, for a number of years, while also dishing out regular renewals to veterans. Those moves have proved a major drain on resources, and potential suitors are regularly scared off by the potential contract demands of big names – on top of big-money fees.
La Liga president Javier Tebas is ready to make life difficult for the club following their role in the European Super League – a project the club had hoped to use to generate funds, blindly following Florentino Perez’s rhetoric that it is a necessity to ensure their future.
“We are in a very complicated economic situation; in the market there is no money, you have to remove and change things – that’s why there’s the Super League,” Said Laporta, ignoring the fact Barca could instead attempt to spend money smarter.
“Javier Tebas has to be clear that the Super League will not affect the Spanish League; Barca will want to win the league every year.
“Sooner or later the English clubs will regret the decision they have taken to leave the Super League.”
And Laporta added: “When I arrived in 2003, and as it was all new, we made a small revolution and everything went well. Now I am rejuvenating and people are very excited.
“The challenge is enormous because it is going to demand a lot of us and I like it because I am prepared.”
He and Barcelona are not yet prepared for life without Messi.
But while he’s a free agent, and with the club’s financial situation still messy (no pun intended), no matter how unlikely it may seem, the possibility of him heading elsewhere remains