As a result, when Barcelona president Joan Laporta was interviewed by local outlet La Vanguardia, Messi came up. Laporta assessed the situation the club is in with their long-time talisman right now. He also explained why they were unable to secure his return this summer following two seasons with Paris Saint-Germain.
Laporta was comfortable laying out his version of why Messi ended up choosing MLS over Barcelona, and also ended up revealing a pretty much unknown situation: the Catalan club are still paying money to the 36-year-old.
This money comes from the last contract Messi had with Barcelona, which came to an end in the summer of 2021 and enabled him to join PSG on a free transfer. However, payments from Barca to the Argentinian attacker will last up until 2025, as Laporta confirmed on Monday…
What did Laporta say about Messi’s potential return?
Laporta insisted Barcelona had the financial means to afford Messi’s comeback and register him at La Liga without major problems, as they had reached an agreement with the league. He suggested it was not finance that stopped Messi returning this summer to the club and city that had been his home for 17 years.
He said: “I understand Messi’s decision to join Miami. But we had an agreement with La Liga and they knew we were going to use a part of our resources to cover up for Messi. This was contemplated on our viability plan, approved by La Liga.
“We told Jorge Messi (the player’s father and agent) and he replied that Leo had gone through a tough year in Paris and that he wanted to have less pressure on his shoulders.”
The Athletic had reported last month that Messi didn’t rejoin Barca due to issues beyond simple pressure.
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What about the money Barcelona owe Messi?
Last January, in an interview with Spanish radio’s Cadena SER, the president was asked if the club still owed money to Messi and replied: “We don’t have anything pending. Everything is agreed with him.”
Today, Laporta confirmed Barcelona are still paying Messi, and will have to do so for two more years at least.
“(Do) we owe any money to Messi? The only thing we owe are the salary deferrals that were agreed with the previous board of the club,” he said. “This is producing pending payments that will come to an end in 2025. We are paying everything religiously.”
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Why do they have to pay Messi when he isn’t their player?
This is money Messi is owed as part of the salary of his last contract with Barcelona. The issue is an agreement reached during that time to ease the club’s financial problems.
Messi signed that contract in 2017, while Josep Maria Bartomeu was club president. It was a four-year deal to summer 2021. He eventually saw that contract out and moved to PSG on a free transfer after it expired. According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Messi had the potential to earn €138million (£118m) per season under that contract, including a fixed salary and potential add-ons.
Part of this money remains to be paid, as the player agreed to defer it to help out with the club’s finances. Two years after he left the Camp Nou, Barcelona are still fulfilling their obligation and paying Messi the money he is entitled to.
How much do they owe him?
It is unclear how much money he agreed to defer, and how much of it is still pending.
The only thing we know is that these payments were agreed in 2020, when Bartomeu asked the whole squad to cooperate with the club while playing behind closed doors, because of the restrictions on crowds gathering during the Covid-19 pandemic, was a huge issue financially right across football.
For Barca, a club already overspending on player salaries and mainly relying on their capacity to generate huge revenues, the temporary pause in all football activity that produced income on a regular basis was particularly harmful.
Some of their players agreed to take pay cuts. Others accepted deferrals. Some did both.
In Messi’s case, his salary deferrals from 2020 and 2021 have been divided into smaller portions for payment that will last, as Laporta revealed today, until 2025.
How close did Barca come to re-signing Messi this summer?
Sources at the club assure us they were very close. There had been multiple reported meetings between Joan Laporta and Jorge Messi, in which both sides admitted there was a chance of the 36-year-old coming back to play for the Catalans again. Actually, a ‘last dance’ with Barcelona next season was understood to be the footballer’s priority.
Barca manager, and former team-mate at the club, Xavi spent the second half of last season personally in touch with Lionel Messi, laying out how much of a crucial role he could play in the rebuilding of the club. The friendship with Xavi had a significant impact on why Messi wanted to keep the option of a return on the table.
In the end, according to the player’s camp, it all collapsed because of a lack of clarity on the financial side. They knew Barcelona needed to offload multiple first-team players to have the money to pay for Messi — something the player did not want to be responsible for.
On top of this, and despite Barcelona claiming they had everything agreed with La Liga, there were concerns on Messi’s side regarding whether he would, in the end, be registered.
What happened at the end in that summer of 2021 also coloured the situation. Then, Messi came back from his holidays believing everything was sorted out for him to extend his contract. At the last minute, though, he found out Barca were not going to execute the agreement they had in place. This pushed him into avoiding the same situation for a second time this summer.
Does this impact him at Inter Miami at all?
It really doesn’t. The money Barcelona owe Messi and the next phase in his career are two separate operations.
Barca, as they have been doing while he was playing in France for the past two seasons, will have to keep paying those chunks of deferred salary no matter which club he is playing for.
What awaits Lionel Messi in MLS with Inter Miami?
(Top photo: Marc Gonzalez Aloma/Europa Press via Getty Images)