Barcelona president Joan Laporta is expected to lift the lid on Lionel Messi’s shock departure at a press conference on Friday.
The Catalan giants revealed on Thursday night that the out-of-contract 34-year-old would end his stay at the Nou Camp after more than two decades after the two parties had agreed an extension, but were unable to formalise it because of LaLiga’s financial rules.
LaLiga has a salary cap, calculated based on a club’s financial health, which was reduced in November in the wake of the financial pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and Barca have been hit hard.
League president Javier Tebas told Spanish media in June: “Barcelona have exceeded their wage cap. I hope they can keep Messi, but to do so, they will have to make cuts elsewhere.”
Laporta is due to address the media at 10am BST on Friday after a tumultuous few hours in the club’s recent history which began with a statement on their official website.
The statement said: “Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles [Spanish Liga regulations].
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona.
“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 aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”
Messi had reportedly agreed to take a 50 per cent pay cut to remain with the heavily indebted club and hopes were high that a deal to beat the league’s salary cap could be struck until the bombshell announcement.
It dropped a year after the player had asked to leave the club on a free transfer with 12 months of his contract remaining, but was prevented from doing so by a 700million Euros – £629million – buy-out clause.
He has been linked with Manchester City, who hours later completed a £100million swoop for Aston Villa’s England international playmaker Jack Grealish, and Paris St Germain in recent months, while Major League Soccer or first club Newell’s Old Boys have also been touted as possible destinations with his future now the subject of intense speculation.
The Argentina international joined Barca as a 13-year-old in 2000 and has since established himself as one of the finest players of his or any other generation.
His 778 appearances for the club have yielded a staggering 672 goals and he has played his part in securing 35 trophies, 10 league titles, four Champions League Crowns, seven Copas del Rey, three Club World Cups, the same number of European Super Cups and eight Spanish Super Cups.
Messi’s heroics have also earned him six Ballons d’Or, one more than Cristiano Ronaldo, his long-standing rival in the ongoing debate over the identity of the greatest player of all time.