Lionel Messi is on the brink of signing a record deal with Barcelona, according to reports in Spain.
The Argentinian maestro is set to end an alleged contract stand-off with the Catalan side by inking a new deal that would see him earn greater money depending on success. Mundo Deportivo, via Football Espana at Yahoo! Eurosport, provides the details:
Mundo Deportivo claims the sides are 85% of the way to an agreement with the details to be finalised before Messi can be made the highest paid player in the world.
Barca are said to be willing and eager to elevate Messi to such a position but are keen to install clauses in the contract that will come into effect depending on the club’s success. Messi’s salary will be fixed but should Barca be successful, Messi will be in line to earn more.
It is noted that talks are taking place in order to up Messi's earnings, not to extend his stay at the club, although a one-year extension until 2019 could be offered. Despite previous speculation suggesting Messi could leave the club this summer, Mundo Deportivo recently confirmed Messi "is not for sale," reported by Luke Augustus of the Daily Mail.
Barcelona's season is likely to end trophyless after Atletico Madrid stormed into the La Liga lead. Gerardo Martino's side also suffered a Champions League exit to Diego Simeone's improving team and recently lost the Copa del Rey final against fierce rivals Real Madrid.
Off-field mishaps have ensured the spotlight continues to glare on Barcelona. Neymar's transfer scandal, which eventually saw president Sandro Rosell leave the club, and FIFA's recently imposed transfer ban, which has been suspended pending an appeal from the Spanish club, are two examples of Barcelona losing their romantic image.
Messi was also caught up in a tax evasion investigation, but he has largely performed well during an injury-ravaged season.
Even so, 34 goals in as many games across the Spanish division and Champions League, per WhoScored.com, haven't stopped Messi's performances from being heavily scrutinised. He failed to net during three important losses to Atletico, Granada and Real before securing victory over Athletic Bilbao with a classy free-kick, forcing many members of the national press to criticise his output.
Sport's headline from November sums up the kind of tone taken throughout the season, per FansAllStar Football:
Gerard Pique, Messi's teammate, berated critics for unsettling a player who is responsible for so much of Barca's success, as reported by Marca:
Messi is the number 1. He's the cornerstone of this team and we've won all we've won thanks to him; the team has played its part, but we are talking about the best player in history, and it never even entered my head that people would criticise, I can't understand it.
Despite reports Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were snooping around a £250 million move for Messi, it seems the Barcelona board are not willing to part with their world superstar, per Esport3, via Alex Richards of the Mirror.
It would certainly be strange to see the mini magician at any other club. Messi's skill, passing ability and lethality defined an era of Barcelona success that has crumbled away across the previous year, ensuring it would be foolish to sell a player who is irreplaceable.
Messi is one of the only stars in the world who would be denounced for averaging around one goal every game. He works on a different level to many world-class footballers and is judged on a separate scale, unfairly most of the time.
His decision to sign a new contract will provide Barcelona with a major boost at this difficult time. Messi's value, both off and on the pitch, is too great to a club that is entering a transitional period. He is needed more than ever, even if the regular match-winner is deemed to be out of form.