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Lionel Messi wants out of Barcelona. The news first emerged a couple of weeks ago, Marcelo Bechler reporting as such in mid-August, but on Tuesday evening it became official: the club captain, the greatest player many football fans have ever seen, sent his side notice of his intention to end his contract.
A legal battle seems likely to emerge next, with Barca convinced he is no longer entitled to end his deal one year early, but aside from the sporting ramifications of him moving on there is the rather large question of his current contract to be examined, particularly for clubs hoping to land him on a free transfer if he does eventually depart.
Messi has extended and negotiated his Camp Nou contract countless times, with the most recent renewal being in 2017. That was a four-year agreement, which runs through to next summer — though this year he had a clause which allowed him to leave for free, if activated by a date believed to be June 10.
That date has long-since passed, but the world of football has been turned upside down by the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdown, meaning many contracts have been extended or delayed, both playing and commercial.
It could mean the battle for his right to depart hinges on whether that initial date was intended to be an “end of the season” point, or a specific date irrespective of the footballing calendar.
Here’s how the rest of that monster deal breaks down, many aspects of which clubs might have to match if they hope to entice the forward this summer.
Messi’s contract was revealed a couple of years ago by Der Spiegel, part of the Football Leaks revelations. In it, it was shown that Messi became the first footballer to be guaranteed more than €100million per season, but his total earnings could yield much more.
The fixed salary for the player stood at a little over €71m (£64m) per year — a massive £1.23m per week, basic.
There was also a fixed signing bonus of €63.5m (£57m), while a further loyalty bonus was for €70m (£62.9m) spread across the course of his contract. It’s not immediately clear whether that latter was paid up annually in proportion, or whether the entirety is due only if he sees out the fourth and final year.
Later, of course, come his additional earnings: performance bonuses depending on how well the team fare in different competitions.
For winning the Champions League — which Barca have not done since he signed this deal — he would earn just over €12m (£10.8m), which again could be paid out on a pro-rata basis depending on how far they go in the competition.
Similar bonuses apply to winning LaLiga and other trophies, while a further appearance bonus stipulated that if Messi played in 60% of Barcelona’s matches across a season or more, he would get another €1.9m (£1.7m) a year.
All told, playing 60% of games per year for the four years of his contract would have guaranteed the No. 10 an average annual income of more than €106m (£95.2m), while the biggest bonus-included season where his team scooped the lot and Messi won the FIFA Player of the Year would have netted Messi €122.5m (£110m).
That hasn’t happened, of course, but it shows the scope of what might be expected if another team wants him to help them become European and domestic champions.
It’s an utterly phenomenal contract which speaks volumes at not only how other-worldly the performances of the 33-year-old have been for a decade and a half, but also of his appeal on the world stage and his importance to the club as a whole.
Which makes it all the more astonishing, and disappointing for Barca fans, that they have allowed the situation to develop to this point in the first place.
- Lionel Messi
- Barcelona FC
- La Liga
- Champions League
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