French giants Paris Saint-Germain are already jostling for Lionel Messi’s signature with talks reportedly underway after the shock news broke that the Argentine will be leaving Barcelona this summer.
Barcelona dropped a bombshell on the football world on Thursday, announcing that Messi would be leaving the club after they were unable to conclude a new deal with the star.
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations),” read a statement from the Catalans.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.”
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BARCELONA BOMBSHELL: Spanish giants announce Lionel Messi will LEAVE this summer because of ‘financial obstacles’
Messi – who tried to force an exit from the Catalan club last year, only to back down – has been a free agent since his last contract expired at the end of June but was said to have arrived back from his summer break in the belief that a new deal was a formality.
The 34-year-old was reportedly left “in shock” after negotiations collapsed due to restrictions on club budgets, with Spanish La Liga boss Javier Tebas unwilling to make exceptions even for the league’s most prized asset.
Barcelona are said to have racked up debts of more than €1 billion ($1.18 billion) in recent years and are desperate to offload unwanted talent such as Brazilian Philippe Coutinho to make space on their payroll, but have made little progress.
That means that after two decades, 778 first-team appearances, 672 goals and 34 major trophies, Messi is looking for a new club to call home.
According to reports in The Athletic, the star has already reached out directly to PSG manager and fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino to sound him out about a potential move.
Elsewhere, transfer guru Fabrizio Romano reports that the French club have “already started new contacts” to ask about the Messi situation, but that the player will not make any rash decisions about his future.
Paris Saint-Germain started new contacts to ask about Leo Messi situation yesterday, right after La Liga blocked new contract agreement with Barça ??? #PSGMessi will take his time to see what happens. He turned down PSG and City approaches months ago, as he only wanted Barça.
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 6, 2021
Adding to the speculation linking Messi to PSG will be his ties with former Barcelona teammate Neymar, with whom he was pictured holidaying this summer alongside Argentine stars Leandro Paredes and Angel Di Maria, who also play their club football in the French capital.
Despite the deep pockets of their Qatari owners, PSG could still struggle to make the deal work and balance the books according to L’Equipe, not least with Neymar’s hefty pay packet and the determination to tie Kylian Mbappe down to a new deal.
Elsewhere, Manchester City – another club fueled by petrodollars from the Middle East – are a likely candidate to land Messi considering their financial clout and the ties the star number 10 has with City boss Pep Guardiola.
However, the Premier League champions have just forked out a record £100 million ($140 million) for England playmaker Jack Grealish and are also in pursuit of striker Harry Kane.
It’s unclear whether Messi’s newfound availability will affect that, although any speculation linking the Argentine to the Etihad is unlikely to go away anytime soon.
Some have also posited that Messi could even end up staying at the Camp Nou, and that despite the farewell tributes, the announcement from Barca is merely a ploy by president Joan Laporta to force La Liga bosses into backing down on economic restrictions for clubs.