Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona have agreed to a five-year contract that will keep the Argentinian in Spain, according to multiple reports. However, the player many consider to be the best in the world will make half than what he made during his previous four-year, $594 million (€500 million) contract.
Beset by financial troubles, Barcelona was not able to give Messi a deal anywhere close to what he had. The club currently has more than €1 billion in debt and must cut their spending from €600 million to €347 million to comply with the Financial Fair Play rules, per ESPN. La Liga president Javier Tebas even told the club that they cannot register Messi’s deal until they do so.
Consequently, Barcelona cannot finalize the contract, or sign other stars such as Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia, and Emerson Royal until they free up the necessary money. That is why the 34-year-old gave a hometown discount to the club that he has been with since he was a member of their youth academy in 2000.
Messi has technically been a free agent for weeks since his contract expired at midnight on June 30, and could have signed elsewhere. He was previously unsure about his future in Barcelona with former president Josep Maria Bartomeu at the helm.
However, the club’s all-time leading goal scorer (709 goals) came around to a return to Camp Nou once Joan Laporta was announced to return as president in March. The two have a close-knit relationship, which helped convince Messi to stay put. Laporta was originally the president of the club when Messi made his first-team debut in 2003.
Before finalizing this contract, the six-time Ballon D’Or winner toyed with the idea of joining Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City. If he did sign with City, after three years the star would have had the opportunity to join NYFC in the MLS.
An MLS appearance can still be in Messi’s future. In April, per ESPN, Laporta included the option of playing in MLS before returning to Barcelona. However, it is unclear if that was included in the final contract offer.
“I always had the dream of being able to enjoy and have the experience of living in the United States and experience what the league there is like,” Messi said.