Lionel Messi 'Wants to Stay' at Barcelona Despite End of Contract, per Joan Laporta

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVJuly 2, 2021

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MAY 16: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta at Camp Nou on May 16, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

Barcelona president Joan Laporta confirmed Friday the La Liga club continues to work toward a resolution to keep superstar forward Lionel Messi at Camp Nou.

"Messi? It's progressing. He wants to stay, we want him to stay. We are on the way to finding a formula," Laporta told Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo (via Jamie Kemble of Football Espana).

The 34-year-old club legend became a free agent when his contract expired Thursday.

Messi nearly made a high-profile exit from Barca after last season, but he explained to Goal's Ruben Uria in September a disputed contract clause and a €700 million buyout fee made a departure "impossible."

"I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not," Messi said. "Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season."

Laporta, who previously served as the club's president from 2003 through 2010, was elected back into the role in March following the departure of Josep Maria Bartomeu.

ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens reported Wednesday the return of Laporta was a "major factor" in the change of heart from Messi, who's "grown more open to staying throughout the course of the last year."

So, while there's mutual interest in continuing a partnership that began when the Argentina international arrived at the club's La Masia youth academy in 2001, there are financial hurdles.

La Liga president Javier Tebas told Mundo Deportivo (via ESPN) in late June that Barcelona needed to reduce their wage bill for the 2021-22 term in order to fit in Messi's new contract.

"Barcelona have exceeded their wage cap," Tebas said. "I hope they can keep Messi, but to do so, they will have to make cuts elsewhere."

Meanwhile, Messi remained his typically dynamic self this past season with 30 goals and nine assists across 35 La Liga appearances. He added five goals in six Champions League matches.

The Argentina national team has reached this summer's 2021 Copa America quarterfinals thanks in part to the forward's tournament-high three goals in the group stage.

While La Albiceleste prepare to take on Ecuador in the quarters in Brazil on Saturday, work continues back in Spain as Barcelona look to finalize a contract for the face of the club.