Barcelona cannot afford to hand contract extensions to talismanic trio Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez, according to La Liga expert Guillem Balague, leaving some shred of doubt as to whether all three will remain at the club.
Balague answered questions during a Sky Sports Q&A session on Friday and was quizzed on the Blaugrana being short of funds and what that could mean in regards to potential player sales:
They are, but I have to tell you that they are looking for money to come in. If they find the right sponsor, or become friends again with Qatar, they will not be short of funds. They don’t want to sell any player, but the one who has to renew his contract in the summer is Neymar.
Barca say he will renew, his father says Barca are favourites, so we have to believe them. But can they afford the renewal of Messi, Suarez and Neymar? At this point no, unless they find more funds.
Neymar has excelled this season and proved during Messi's injury absence in particular that he can be the attacking phenomenon to potentially replace his Argentinian team-mate in the long run.
As such, it's no surprise to hear Balague claim the Brazilian superstar's contract is something of a priority for the club, not to mention the fact his deal expires in June 2018, as does Messi's.
The Spanish journalist also hinted at the strained relationship Barcelona currently have with shirt sponsors Qatar Airways, and website OK Diario reported earlier this month that Pepsi was being considered as a replacement (h/t Sport).
According to Bleacher Report's Jason Pettigrove, it's a matter of when, and not if Neymar puts pen to paper on an extension, and any new contract will contain a gargantuan buyout clause:
Jason Pettigrove @jasonpettigrove
#neymar to sign his new #Barca contract in July, extended to 2020 and buyout clause raised to €250m ( via @Marsallorente )2016-2-15 20:12:48
That €250 million (£194.2 million) figure is a statement of just how highly the Blaugrana rate their Selecao talisman, who has scored 76 goals in just 123 games for the club.
Goal's Ignasi Oliva reported in January that Messi's annual salary will increase next season from €22 million (£17.1 million) to €42 million (£32.6 million) after he agreed to delay his next pay rise until 2016 following a contract extension almost two years ago.
It seems unlikely any piece of the fabled MSN triumvirate would leave Catalonia when things are going so well for them of late, having dominated the competition to win a European and domestic treble last season.
Belgian journalist Kristof Terruer has tipped this summer's arrival of former Barcelona chief Pep Guardiola at the Manchester City helm to usher in a new wave of rumours linking Messi with a move to the Etihad Stadium:
Kristof Terreur 📰 @HLNinEngeland
Now Pep Guardiola has signed his contract, the Messi to #MCFC rumour will be recycled all over again.2016-2-1 22:49:05
City would be one of the clubs perhaps boasting the money necessary to split up Barca's attacking lineup in one way or another, and Barcelona's restricted cash flow could see them struggle to compete.
In an age dictated by big transfer fees and even larger wallets, Barcelona may yet find their financial limitations prevent them from extending the loyalties of their most prized players.