Messi Contract Dispute Could See Argentine Leave Barcelona

Jerrad Peters@@jerradpetersWorld Football Staff WriterMarch 15, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 18:  Lionel Messi of Barcelona celebrates scoring the opening goal from a penalty kick during the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 first leg match between Manchester City and Barcelona at the Etihad Stadium on February 18, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Lionel Messi’s contract negotiations have become so muddled it no longer seems inconceivable that the four-time Ballon d’Or winner could depart Barcelona.

Indeed, it may just be a matter of time.

Messi scores against Manchester City in the Champions League.
Messi scores against Manchester City in the Champions League.David Ramos/Getty Images

Messi, who last extended his contract in 2012, is asking for a hefty raise and full control over his image rights, and according to a Friday report in Marca, he and the club are currently separated by €9 million per year in fixed salary.

With the two sides so far apart, mused the Spanish daily, “coming to an agreement will be complicated,” if not “impossible.”

Not surprisingly, the chaos of the Neymar transfer is at the heart of the negotiation.

According to Marca, the compensation offered the former Santos forward resulted in considerable discontent in the Messi camp. In August, club president Sandro Rosell promised Messi’s father, who doubles as his agent, that an improved package would soon be on offer.

But Rosell was forced to resign his position when allegations of improprieties regarding the Neymar acquisition made his job untenable, as per The Guardian, and in late January, he was replaced by Josep Maria Bartomeu.

The new president quickly made a proposal to Messi, but Marca claims the Argentina international was “gobsmacked” by the offer, which fell well short of the promises made by Rosell.

Barcelona’s desire for a share of Messi’s image rights has also complicated matters, and Marca believes the player and his father are disgruntled enough to consider halting the negotiations altogether.

All the while, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain continue to circle.

Back in December, Le Parisien reported the Ligue 1 champions were considering a world-record bid for Messi, as relayed by the Daily Mail. Shortly after the rumour surfaced, PSG striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic told Sky Sports that “if you buy Messi, you don’t dream bigger—you are bigger.”

Then, on March 6, Spanish outlet El Confidencial claimed Manchester City were considering a €200 million approach for the 26-year-old, as per the Manchester Evening News.

Few other sides could afford the transaction, and given Messi’s contract situation, there’s a very real chance that one or both of them will get very serious about opening transfer talks in the coming months.

After all, it would be naive to simply assume the three-time Champions League winner is destined to see out his playing days at Camp Nou—especially given the outside influences of sponsors and apparel companies that would no doubt delight in a big-money move.

In fact, the transfer of Messi is likely inevitable—a matter of “when,” not “if.” And breaking off talks with Barcelona will only hasten the process.

The Neymar deal was the flick to the domino train destined someday to fall. Rosell has already been toppled, and Messi’s new contract could be next to tip over.