It’s hard to believe, but Lionel Messi’s contract with Barcelona is officially set to expire on June 30, making him a free agent.
Speculation over Messi’s future has been rife ever since his decision last summer to leave the club, which he later walked back after it became clear he would have to take Barcelona to court get out of the deal with one year left on the contract. That saga suggested that his career-long affiliation with Barca could soon come to an end.
The 34-year-old saw out the final season of his current deal and with the departure of former president Josep Bartomeu, who had a strained relationship with Messi, and the arrival of Joan Laporta, all indications now point to Messi remaining at the club. But he has not yet signed a renewal at the Camp Nou. So could Messi really leave Catalunya this summer?
Here’s everything you need to know about the intriguing saga.
When does Lionel Messi’s Barcelona contract expire?
Messi has now reached his June 30, 2021 contract expiry date, meaning he will be a free agent and able to join any club of his choosing without any transfer compensation for Barcelona.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner became the best-paid player in La Liga history when he signed a fresh four-year agreement with Barca worth $674 million, but it has been reported that the club can no longer match his salary demands amid a worrying financial crisis.
Will Lionel Messi sign a new Barcelona contract?
Multiple media reports indicate that talks between Messi and Barcelona officials over an extension were still ongoing as recently as last week, with a breakthrough in negotiations yet to be reached.
While there’s no word on an official contract offer, it has since been reported that the Argentine international has agreed to remain at the club until 2023 and an announcement has only been delayed due to final details on certain contract clauses. The reported arrangement also contemplates a spell with Inter Miami in MLS and a return to Barcelona as a club ambassador.
Blaugrana president Joan Laporta has voiced his optimism over holding on to Messi on several occasions, most recently stating that new signing Sergio Aguero has been doing his part to convince his fellow countryman to sign on the dotted line. Many consider the signing of Aguero, close friends with Messi, as a prelude to Messi’s signing.
“Aguero is helping. He is telling him every day to stay,” Laporta said earlier this month. “He [Messi] is excited and I am grateful to him for the desire he is showing to stay.”
Messi is currently busy trying to help Argentina win its first Copa America since 1993. Argentina will play Ecuador in the quarterfinal stage.
Could Lionel Messi leave Barcelona & which clubs could he join?
Should Barca fail to conclude a deal with Messi, he will be able to leave the club on a free transfer, and will not be short on potential suitors.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were the clubs most strongly linked with the playmaker last summer, and it has been reported that they are still keeping a close eye on his situation.
Real Madrid, Manchester United and boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys have also been credited with an interest in Messi, but City has been touted as his most likely destination due to the possibility of a reunion with former Blaugrana boss Pep Guardiola.