Lionel Messi’s time at Barcelona appears to be over.
Barcelona announced Thursday that Messi will not stay with the club, saying that the Spanish league’s financial regulations made it impossible to sign the Argentina star to a new contract.
Barcelona said in a statement that a deal for a new contract had been reached but financial “obstacles” made it impossible for the player to remain with the club.
“Despite club and player reaching an agreement and their clear intention to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles,” the club said.
It blamed “Spanish league regulations” for not allowing the club to sign a new contract with the player. His previous one had ended on June 30.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona,” it said. “Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandizement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life,” the statement said.
Messi had asked to leave Barcelona for free at the end of last season but had his request denied by then-president Josep Bartomeu. Joan Laporta took over the presidency and appeared to have convinced Messi to stay. But Laporta had said recently that the club was struggling to fit the player’s salary — even with hefty reductions accepted by the player — into the league-controlled salary cap.
In Messi’s previous contract, signed in 2017, he reportedly earned 138 million euros ($163 million) per season.
The league had announcement on Wednesday that it secured $3.2 billion in private equity funding to help the clubs, which appeared to pave the way for Barcelona to re-sign the Argentina star. But the deal with Messi fell through after club officials met with the player’s representatives in Barcelona on Thursday. Some local reports said it was Messi who had changed his mind about staying, while others said it was the club that got upset with new demands made by the player’s staff.
Messi will be leaving after 17 seasons with the Catalan club, having won 35 titles. 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 as the world’s top player. He is the team’s all-time 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.
He was the top scorer in the Spanish league in eight seasons, and the top scorer in the Champions League on six occasions. His 26 goals against Real Madrid are a record for the “clásico” matches against Barcelona’s fiercest rival.
Messi arrived at Barcelona at age 13, when he and his family came to Spain to try his luck at Barcelona’s youth academy. He made his official debut on Oct. 16, 2004, and two years later helped the club win its first Champions League in a squad led by Ronaldinho.
Lionel Messi’s incredible 17-season career at Barcelona appears to have come to an end.
Here are some of its most important dates:
- June 24, 1987 — Messi is born in Rosario, Argentina.
- Dec. 14, 2000 — After his start at Newell’s Old Boys as a child phenom, Messi crosses the Atlantic to try out for a spot at Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy. Club official Charly Rexach writes and signs his first contract with Barcelona on a napkin after sharing a beer with an intermediary representing Messi.
- Nov. 16, 2003 — Frank Rijkaard gives Messi his debut at age 16 in a friendly against a Porto side coached by Jose Mourinho.
- Oct. 16, 2004 — Messi plays first official match for Barcelona at age 17.
- May 17, 2006 — Messi wins first Champions League title even tough he misses the final against Arsenal due to injury. During the 2005-06 season he has earned a spot in Barcelona’s attack alongside Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o.
- March 10, 2007 — Messi scores first hat trick for Barcelona in a 3-3 draw against Real Madrid.
- May 27, 2009 — Messi wins his second Champions League after scoring to beat Manchested United 2-0 in the final. With the departure of Ronaldinho and the hiring of Pep Guardiola as coach, Messi has become the undisputed start of Barcelona. He has joined forces with Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández to drive Barcelona to a rare treble of European Cup, Spanish league and Copa del Rey titles.
- Dec. 1, 2009 — Messi wins his first of a record six Balon d’Or awards for the best player in soccer. He will win the award again in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, and 2019.
- May 28, 2011 — Messi wins his third Champions League to complete a season double with his fifth Spanish league titles. He scores from outside the area to take the winning goal in a 3-1 victory over Manchester United in the European final.
- March 7, 2012 — Messi becomes first player to score five times in a Champions League match to fuel a 7-1 rout of Bayer Leverkusen.
- March 20, 2012 — Messi becomes Barcelona’s all-time leading scorer at age 24 after surpassing Cesar Rodriguez’s 232 goals. He will go on to score 672 goals for Barcelona.
- Dec. 9, 2012 — Messi surpasses Gerd Mueller’s 1972 record of 85 goals for club and country in a single year. He finishes 2012 with 91 goals for Barcelona and Argentina.
- Nov. 22, 2014 — Messi becomes the Spanish league’s all-time scorer after surpassing Telmo Zarra’s 251 goals. He goes on to score 474 goals in La Liga.
- June 6, 2015 — Messi wins the Champions League for a fourth and final time after Barcelona beats Juventus 3-1 in the final.
- July 6, 2016 — Messi and father Jorge Messi are found guilty of defrauding Spain’s Tax Office of 4.1 million euros (then $4.6 million) in undisclosed revenue from image rights. Messi and his father, who serves as his agent, are sentenced to 21 months in prison, but the sentence is waived by a judge because they are first-time offenders.
- Nov. 25, 2017 — Messi signs his last contract with Barcelona, a five-year deal lasting through June 30, 2021. Spanish newspaper El Mundo reveals years later that the deal earns Messi 138 million euros ($168 million) per campaign, making him the highest wage-earner in world sports.
- April 27, 2019 — Messi wins the Spanish league for a 10th and final time.
- Feb. 5, 2020 — Messi lashes out at Barcelona sports director Eric Abidal for his questioning of the team’s effort with it struggling following the firing coach Ernesto Valverde.
- July 17, 2020 — Messi calls his team “weak and erratic” after it loses the league title.
- Aug. 25, 2020 — Messi sends Barcelona board a fax saying he wants to leave following the club’s first season without a title in over a decade. His request is denied and he later says that he will play out the final year on his contract before deciding his future.
- Dec. 23, 2020 — Messi surpasses Pelé’s milestone of 643 goals scored for one club.
- April 17, 2021 — Messi scores twice to lead Barcelona to a 4-0 win over Athletic Bilbao in the final of the Copa del Rey. Messi’s seventh domestic cup takes his club record to 35 titles for Barcelona.
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