Can cash-strapped Barcelona afford to keep Lionel Messi? Q&A

Can cash-strapped Barcelona afford to keep Lionel Messi? Losing their talisman would be a commercial DISASTER but even a new deal well below his current one will be hard to finance… the key questions following star man’s £492m contract leak

  • Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi is in the final months of his £492million deal
  • Details of his contract were leaked in latest chapter of tumultuous few months 
  • Presidential candidate Joan Laporta claims the Argentine wants to stay 
  • Barcelona could make huge money with commercial opportunities if he does
  • But even financing a deal at a lower cost than the current one will be tough 

After Lionel Messi’s leaked contract further underlined just how unsustainable Barcelona’s finances are, Sportsmail asks the big questions concerning the club captain’s future. 

Can they afford to keep him? Can they afford to let him go? And will bonds and a Buffon gesture help keep player and club together beyond the summer? 

Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona remains uncertain at the conclusion of his current deal

Messi can’t have been happy to see the details of his contract all over El Mundo on Sunday. Does this increase the chances of him leaving?

Not really because if there was a leak from inside the club it came from people who are no longer in charge (former board) or who are only temporarily in charge (interim board). From March 7 the club will have a new president, it will be a new start.

And Joan Laporta is the favourite and he says he thinks Messi wants to stay? Would he know?

He spoke to him on Sunday and yes he says he has indications that Messi wants to stay. Barcelona still need to make him the right offer of course.

And with a short-term debt of €720m (£636m) there is no way they are going to be able to match his current deal.

Matching his current deal was never going to be an option anyway. He’ll be 34 next June. You don’t pay 34-year-old Messi what you pay 30-year-old Messi. Then with the pandemic massively reducing the club’s revenue it was always clear that like every other mortal he was going to have to take a pay cut. 

Barcelona’s potential problem is that even a deal well below the current £122m guaranteed gross (and it’s best to use the gross figure because that is what Barcelona have to pay albeit half to the tax man) will be hard to finance.

Messi has inspired an upturn in fortunes for Barcelona in recent weeks with strong form

Hard to finance or impossible?

If the club get back to 2019’s €840m annual revenue then maintaining his status as, at the very least, the club’s top earner might not be impossible. 

If travel and attendance at football matches is back to normal by September 2021, when in effect Messi would kick off his first season with the new contract, that becomes more feasible.

Plenty gets said about what it would cost to keep him. Losing him also comes with a price does it not?

That’s exaclty the calcuation the new president will need to make. It’s highly unlikely Messi will play another full season in Europe beyond the next World Cup (that appears to be his cut-off point for moving to the US) so the next two seasons will be his last. 

From a commercial point of view they will be lucrative campaigns: his last ever Clasico, his last ever Champions League game for Barcelona, his last ever game at the Nou Camp, his last ever match in the Barcelona shirt. Sponsors will want a piece of that Messi farewell tour pie. The first-team shirt is up for renewal in 2022. 

If Rakuten choose to sponsor it again they will be willing to pay considerably more if Messi’s wearing the No 10 and in his last ever games to huge global audiences, than if he isn’t. Diario Sport’s front page said Messi had been responsible for €237m (£209m) of revenue in the last three years. The numbers can always be contested but it’s clear the Barcelona brand is considerably more attractive with Messi than without him.

Messi’s contract information was released in the latest unfortunate chapter of recent months

What plans do the presidential candidates have for reverting the club’s financial crisis and making paying Messi more feasible?

The election favourite, Laporta, has spoken about the possibility of two types of bonds scheme that would raise immediate capital. 

The first would target Barcelona fans and for their investment those buying the bonds (not strictly bonds in this sense but let’s call them that) would be rewarded in kind. 

The second scheme would be bonds in a more literal sense with members and non-members alike able to buy bonds repayable within the president’s five-year term, with interest. A bond is not a share. In the case of a business going into administration those with bonds are bottom of the list when it comes to receiving any money for example. 

This would however bring in private money to the club, but without compromising the club’s member-ownership model. The second idea would have to be passed by the National Securities Market Commission before it could be used.

Presidential candidate Joan Laporta insists the club icon wants to remain with the club

Could there also be a gesture from Messi? Maybe he’ll pay for nothing for the last two years?

Yes and maybe when grounds reopen to spectators, supporters will be allowed in for free! It’s true that when Juventus were relegated in Italy certain players such as Gianluigi Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero stuck around at great financial loss to help the team. 

Messi would win politically if he did something similar. Regardless of whether he stays or goes he is due a €39m (£34m) loyalty payment on July 15. That could also be written off either way as a goodwill gesture.

Gianluigi Buffon took a financial hit when Juventus were relegated but stayed with the team

Where does he go if he goes?

Remember how last summer, before it became clear Manchester City were the only club he was going to if he left, and Inter were touted as a possible destination? Well Inter haven’t paid their players since June 2020. The point is everyone is in a similar situation. 

PSG can’t keep Neymar, Kylian Mbappe AND sign Messi. Madrid would love Messi to go to Paris on the understanding it could mean Mbappe comes there way but PSG may prefer the younger player. 

Manchster City still look the most likely to be able to make it work with a longer deal that includes Messi moving to the US but one thing regarding his decision should not be overlooked. 

Messi made it clear last summer his family were delighted they could stay where they were so if he does move in the summer it will be against their wishes. Of course if Barcelona flat out can’t afford him then the Messi clan will have to start packing regardless.

Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola will no doubt be closely monitoring the situation 

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