Lionel Messi’s 21-year association with FC Barcelona has ended abruptly after the club revealed it could not afford to hand the 34-year-old a new five-year contract. The deal, which contained a substantial wage reduction of 50%, is still too rich for the Catalan giants to entertain given their perilous financial situation. The club reportedly has over €1bn of debt to service and according to the president, Joan Laporta, the club is already at “the limit” in terms of player salaries for Financial Fair Play (FFP).
One team that could benefit from Barcelona’s financial woes is Manchester City, which is one of the few clubs that could afford Messi’s wages and signing-on fee. The 2020/21 Premier League champions are outright favorites once again in the Premier League betting markets to win the 2021/22 title after snapping up Aston Villa icon Jack Grealish. Their odds would plunge further still if City boss Pep Guardiola manages to team up with the Argentine he once coached at the Nou Camp.
Seeing Messi in City colors would be a bitter pill for Barcelona to swallow, but it is something that the club must do to get its house in order. There was some light at the end of the tunnel earlier in the summer when private equity firm CVC sought investment of €2.7bn in La Liga in exchange for a 10% interest in its business and overall revenue. 15% of the €2.7bn was ring-fenced for La Liga wages, which the Barca hierarchy felt would make Messi’s new contract achievable.
However, after looking more closely at the detail, the funds provided would still not be enough for Barca to overcome FFP. With Messi on the payroll, Barcelona’s player salaries would equate to 110% of their annual turnover. Shedding the Argentine from their payroll alone has already seen that shift to 95%.
Manchester City may decide a move for Lionel Messi would be a step too far after breaking the British transfer record for Jack Grealish. His arrival will see City heavily favored for the Premier League title this season even if they don’t sign Messi.
If City does pull the plug on a move for the Argentine, there is only one other club in European football that can realistically afford Messi. That club is Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). The Qatari-owned Parisians have pockets that are equally as deep as Manchester City’s and the bonus of a fellow Argentine in charge of their team – Mauricio Pochettino.
Reports also suggest that PSG has rapidly conducted a commercial analysis of a deal for Lionel Messi and concluded that the transfer would be permitted within the confines of FFP rules. Messi is also said to have contacted Pochettino directly after discovering his Barcelona fate.
Wherever Messi ends up next, Barca president Joan Laporta insists the Catalan giants need to move on from Messi and not look back at a potential deal that could have put the club “at risk for the next 50 years”.