Barcelona officials are entertaining the idea of selling Lionel Messi after contract talks recently stalled with the five-time Ballon d'Or winner, according to reports.
Messi's sudden loss of form is also said to be behind such considerations, as revealed by Catalan channel Esport3 (via Pete Jenson of the Daily Mail):
The suggestion is that certain members of the club's board believe the player is now worth more to them in the transfer market than on the pitch, that Messi is aware of this, and that he believes it is behind Barcelona's reluctance to improve his current contract which runs out in 2018.
Jenson noted that Messi's £205 million buyout clause is something Paris Saint-Germain would be willing to pay. This is perhaps a tempting sum for Barca, who are about to go ahead with a stadium rebuild in the region of £493 million.
Marca noted that Messi's contract is "due to be reviewed" after Neymar and his family received mega fees when the Brazilian starlet arrived from Santos. Of course, Cristiano Ronaldo recently inked a £14.25 million-per-year deal at Real Madrid, as reported by BBC Sport—suggesting Messi needs a comparable contract.
It is understood Barcelona wish to gain "half" of Messi's images rights in exchange for an annual salary of around £20.25 million, per Jenson's report. These numbers may prove to be a stumbling block for either party, as both sides look to maximise the potential of football's most decorated player.
Messi has scored 33 goals in as many matches across the La Liga and Champions League this campaign, as recorded by WhoScored.com. However, he has failed to net in the Blaugrana's last three matches against Atletico Madrid, Granada and Real, all of which ended in defeat.
Is it time for Barcelona to cash in on Lionel Messi?
Gerardo Martino's men are now out of Europe, four points behind Atletico in the domestic division and coping with Copa del Rey final heartbreak after Gareth Bale's late solo strike won Wednesday's final for Real.
Messi's inability to influence three of Barca's most important games has led board members to believe they "could at least raise the possibility of entertaining offers with the club’s supporters," per Jenson.
Rob Dawson of the Manchester Evening News also confirmed Manchester City are linked with the Argentinian, but Manuel Pellegrini remains unsurprised by reports:
Pellegrini also unsurprised City have again being linked with Messi. Says they have also been linked with 'every goalkeeper of the world'.— Rob Dawson (@RobDawsonMEN) April 18, 2014
Although Messi's future is sure to be a hot topic until he signs a new contract, it is extremely difficult to imagine the player away from Barcelona. He has grown up at the Camp Nou, learned his entire footballing philosophy throughout the club's ranks, and he is the embodiment of an era that will be remembered for FCB success.
Selling him would give up everything Barcelona has sought to achieve across the last decade, as it's unlikely the Spanish giants will come close to finding someone else of equal talent anytime soon.