Image: Wikimedia Commons / Кирилл Венедиктов
Image: Wikimedia Commons / Кирилл Венедиктов

Leaked: what does Lionel Messi’s contract mean for Barcelona?

As per a leak from Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Lionel Messi’s four-year contract with Barcelona is worth over €555 million (£486 million); it expires on 30 June 2021.

This means the Argentine has been receiving up to £123 million per season since signing the deal. The leaking of this information has inevitably thrust Lionel Messi into the limelight once again, especially given the miserable state of Barcelona’s finances.

The club is currently over €1 billion (£876 million) in debt. With nearly 1/5 of that sum being pumped straight into Messi’s contract, it isn’t hard to see why.

Messi is and always has been an expensive asset. He is widely regarded as the best player in the world and is rightly seen as the best player in Barcelona’s history. The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has earned his place as one of football’s top earners.

But this is an outlay that Barcelona cannot sustain.

Messi has been linked with moves away from the Camp Nou since last summer when he submitted a formal transfer request that sent the footballing world into a frenzy.

Barcelona are a club in turmoil off the pitch

Moves to Manchester City and upcoming Champions League opponents, Paris Saint-Germain, have both been touted; given the apparent conditions of Messi’s contract at Barcelona, they seem the only two clubs capable of even coming close to matching those standards.

Regardless, Barcelona are a club in turmoil off the pitch. Though some form has been rediscovered in recent weeks, the state of affairs behind the scenes is tumultuous to say the least.

Barcelona rely heavily on football tourism. As world football’s brightest attraction, the coronavirus has hammered the Catalan club and its business model.

Barcelona budgeted for an income of £943 million last season, with that figure including an estimate in how much would be made from January player sales that never really took shape. Their projected income this year is around £746m, and Messi alone is taking up £123m of that, more than 15% of Barcelona’s total income for the year.

Clearly, then, Barcelona need to reduce that outlay, or they face the worryingly real threat of administration – a fate unimaginable for a club of Barcelona’s size.

Another big source of income for Barcelona over the last decade or so has come via prize money.

The money involved in success both domestically and in the Champions League is what fuels the biggest clubs.

By going far in the Champions League, not only do Barcelona gather more global support from those entertained by their football, but they also rake in millions from the reward money available in the latter stages of the competition.

Their failure to consistently succeed on the international stage, frequently falling foul of second leg collapses or absolute demolition jobs, such as that received by Bayern Munich in last season’s competition, has meant the money they had grown used to receiving from their success has dried up. They can’t rely on the club being successful on the pitch anymore, either.

Atletico Madrid hold a ten-point lead over them with a game in hand

At the time of writing, Barcelona occupy second place in La Liga, but leaders Atletico Madrid hold a ten-point lead over them with a game in hand, and it seems unlikely that any team will catch them given their current form.

And now, on the horizon, is a mammoth clash with PSG and former Barcelona star, Neymar, in the Champions League.

As I previewed here, Barcelona are going to be up against it in this one, regardless of their upsurge in form recently, and even if they were to progress to the quarter-finals, the chances of them meeting a stronger side are incredibly high, such is the quality in Europe this season.

Messi’s eye-watering salary paired with the numerous other issues Barcelona are facing currently could ultimately be their downfall.

Should he elect to stay in Catalonia following the end of this season, the club will surely have to cut their captain’s wage.

Once again, the question remains: what does Messi do now? Does he accept a pay cut, and remain at the club he has grown to become synonymous with, or does he look elsewhere for a team that are more likely to match his ambitions of title success and meet his wage demands?

The upcoming clash with PSG could be defining for the future of both Lionel Messi and the entire institution of FC Barcelona.

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