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Sunday, September 19, 2021

PSG explore Messi signing, Man City say ‘not in our thoughts’; Barcelona optimistic in post-Messi era

Lionel Messi was set to make about 70 million euros ($82 million) per year under his new Barcelona contract by taking a 50% pay cut, but it was never signed.

By: AP |
Updated: August 7, 2021 7:49:09 am
lionel messi, barcelonaLionel Messi's decision has thrown Barcelona into turmoil. (Reuters)

Barcelona’s announcement that Lionel Messi would be leaving the club set Paris Saint-Germain scrambling to figure out if it could sign the most desired free agent in soccer history.

Messi called PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino, who is also from Argentina, on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss private discussions.

The person said PSG was assessing the potential revenue that could be generated by signing Messi while also paying him a huge salary and complying with soccer’s financial regulations.

Funded for a decade by Qatari sovereign wealth, PSG is one of the few clubs in the world that can afford the 34-year-old Messi’s salary. A challenge would appear to be ensuring ongoing compliance with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, although some flexibility has been provided due to the pandemic and changes are due to the system designed to stem losses. It is PSG President Nasser Al-Khelaifi who, as chairman of the European Club Association and a member of UEFA’s executive committee, is involved in the process of discussing a wider update to FFP.

PSG’s most recent published accounts, covering 2019-20, show the wage bill was 414.4 million euros ($488 million) on a revenue of 560 million euros ($659 million) as it already pays big salaries to Neymar and Kylian Mbappé.

Messi was set to make about 70 million euros ($82 million) per year under his new Barcelona contract by taking a 50% pay cut, but it was never signed. Barcelona said on Thursday that despite reaching an agreement with Messi on the new terms, the Spanish league intervened because the club would not be complying with salary cap regulations.

It leaves open the possibility of the exit announcement being reversed if Barcelona can convince the league to back off. But Barcelona’s debts exceed 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion), a plight not caused by the pandemic but exacerbated by the lack of revenue from empty stadiums on top of years of financial problems.

While Barcelona’s social media accounts paid tribute to his career, Messi has yet to post anything online about leaving the club he has been at since the age of 13, winning 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.

If PSG was to sign Messi, he would be reunited with former Barcelona forward Neymar. He would also be the latest free arrival at the French club this offseason, following goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, defender Sergio Ramos and midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum. Like Messi, their contracts expired at Milan, Real Madrid and Liverpool, respectively.

Man City manager: Signing Messi ‘not in our thoughts’

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola poured cold water on the idea of a reunion with Lionel Messi.

“Right now, (it’s) not in our thoughts, absolutely not,” Guardiola said at a press conference when asked about signing Messi.

Barcelona announced Thursday that Messi would not remain with the club. Team president Joan Laporta on Friday blamed the previous administration for the club’s dire financial situation, which kept it from fitting Messi’s proposed new contract within the Spanish league’s fair play regulations. Guardiola — who appears more interested in Tottenham striker Harry Kane — was the coach at Barcelona from 2008-12 and together he and Messi won two Champions League titles and an array of other trophies.

But he said he hasn’t spoken to Messi. “In the end it was surprise for everyone, me included of course,” Guardiola said. “The president, Laporta, was clear today the reasons why. I didn’t speak with the player or the president so I don’t know what happened.”

“I would love for him to have finished (at Barcelona),” Guardiola said. “I, of course, wish him for the last years of his career the best. He will not be forgotten, that’s for sure.

Barcelona tries to stay optimistic going into post-Messi era

Despite losing its best player and being mired by financial difficulties, Barcelona remained confident it will keep succeeding in the post-Lionel Messi era.

Barcelona will start a season without Messi for the first time in nearly two decades but president Joan Laporta said the club’s motivation will be greater than ever.

“We have 122 years of history, we have been through everything and we have always come through,” Laporta said Friday, a day after the Catalan club announced it would not be able to keep Messi because of its dire financial situation. “So now we will be more motivated than ever. We want the post-Messi era to be very successful and I think that it will be.”

He said he talked to the squad and asked the players to step up in Messi’s absence.

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