Leo Messi’s seventh contract extension since 2005 is cooking away in the oven, but the soufflé is yet to rise. This is due to the disparity between what the player wants and what the Blaugrana can offer, the club currently maintaining a show of shock at the figures being demanded by the best player in the world.
Since the signing of Neymar last summer, Messi – and above all those in his camp – have suspected that the Brazilian has overtaken him as the squad’s best-paid player, through payments not included as part of his salary. Subsequent events, centring around Spain’s High Court, have only served to support their initial suspicions.
Messi and his advisers believe that, one way or another, Barça are paying Neymar between 18 and 20 million euros per year net. Meanwhile, their defence – off the record, of course – is that Messi earns 16 at the Catalan club. They aim to redress the balance between the contracts of the world’s number one and a player with the ability to be very good, but who isn’t on his level. Messi and his camp propose an annual salary of 25 million euros net, which would amount to 50 million gross. The five-year contract proposed by the 26-year-old therefore takes the deal to a total of 250 million euros.
For Barcelona, the Argentina international’s demands are a long way off what they want to pay him. This is exacerbated by the fact that the club wishes to shake up the squad this summer. Javier Faus, Barça’s economic vice-president, has given the go-ahead to a 60-million-euro summer transfer kitty, to be boosted by income from player sales. The deal to renew Messi’s contract, on top of new signings and the future Camp Nou, put the club’s financial stability at risk.
For the moment, neither party is in any rush over negotiations. Firstly, because Barcelona need to include the deal in the coming financial period in order to avoid posting losses, and secondly because a positive inclination towards the deal exists on both sides. Barça want Messi to continue, while the player has already stated that his wish is to stay where he is, if he is wanted. In other words, if he is valued as highly as other teams would value him.
In the summer, three big European clubs offered Messi significantly more than his current pay packet at Barcelona. Two were serious approaches, from teams with Arab owners out to ascertain their chance of signing the forward. The other came from an important rival to Barça, who sounded out the Argentine, but whose chief aim was to push up the price of La Pulga’s contract renewal. It proved unnecessary, however: Neymar and his signing did the rest.