Lionel Messi contract: New deal delayed by La Liga financial controls, says Barca president

Messi's deal expired at midnight Wednesday in Spain, and has yet to sign a renewal to extend his 20-year stay at Camp Nou.

Lionel Messi

The 34-year-old has been linked with moves to Paris St-Germain and Manchester City, where he would be reunited with his former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola.   -  REUTERS

Barcelona's attempts to offer Lionel Messi a new contract are being held up because of La Liga's financial control measures, the club's president, Joan Laporta, said on Thursday after the Argentine became a free agent.

Messi, who joined Barca aged 13 in September 2000, has no current contractual link with the Catalans after his deal expired on June 30. While Laporta said the club's all-time top scorer wishes to stay, he added their attempts to tie him to a new deal had to fit with the league's requirements.

"It's going well, he wants to stay, and we're making all the efforts to ensure he does. But we have to balance it with financial fair play," Laporta told Spanish radio station Onda Cero on Thursday.

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"There are many options, and we're contemplating which is the best for both parties. But we want him to stay, and so does he. We want to give him the most competitive team possible."

La Liga introduced financial control measures in 2013 establishing a maximum amount of money each club can spend on its playing squad and coaching staff each season, conditioned by its income.

Barca has the highest revenues in world football, according to this year's Deloitte Money League. However, income dropped by 125 million euros last year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the start of the 2019-20 season, Barca was allocated a maximum budget of 1.47 billion euros by La Liga, which shrank to 733 million for the last campaign and is expected to fall even further after a whole season without ticket sales and a depressed transfer market.

Messi had the most lucrative contract in world sport, according to a January report in El Mundo. If Barca is to get a new deal for him over the line, it will have to further reduce its wage bill, which Laporta said last month contained many players on salaries "out of sync with the current market".

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