Lionel Messi Will Not Renew Barcelona Contract, Set to Leave Club After 17 Seasons

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 5, 2021

FILE - In this file photo dated Thursday, April 29, 2021, Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish La Liga match against Granada at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Lionel Messi and Barcelona are closer to signing a new deal that would keep the Argentina soccer star at the Spanish club through the end of his playing career, according to an unidentified insider Friday July 16, 2021. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, FILE)
AP Photo/Joan Monfort

Lionel Messi officially won't return to Barcelona, the club announced Thursday:

FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona

LATEST NEWS | Leo <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Messi?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Messi</a> will not continue with FC Barcelona

"Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it cannot be formalized due to economic and structural obstacles (Spanish LaLiga regulations)," the club said in a statement.

The club also released a tribute video to its departing legend: 

FC Barcelona @FCBarcelona

Thank you, Leo. <a href="https://t.co/cdS9xWe8Me">pic.twitter.com/cdS9xWe8Me</a>

Spanish newspaper Marca initially reported talks had broken off Thursday:

B/R Football @brfootball

Spanish newspaper <a href="https://twitter.com/marca?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Marca</a> report that Messi "has never been further from renewing his Barcelona contract”<br><br>The report states "negotiations have reached a point of no return which seems impossible to resolve" <a href="https://t.co/LsnSJt0BBE">pic.twitter.com/LsnSJt0BBE</a>

Catalan radio station RAC1 (h/t Collin Millar of the Mirror) later reported Messi is "more out of Barca than ever" and he "does not like the current squad." 

Messi was a free agent this offseason after his contract with Barcelona had expired, but the two sides had reportedly agreed to a five-year extension in July featuring a significant wage reduction for the player, per Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens of ESPN.

The deal was never signed, however, as Barcelona struggled to fit the contract within its wage limit for 2021-22.

La Liga received an injection of €2.7 billion Wednesday in a deal with CVC Capital Partners, 90 percent of which will go directly to the clubs.

It was expected the additional funds would indirectly help Barcelona with its high salaries, per Llorens and Marsden. However, the club has been unable to offload high-priced players like Antoine Griezmann.

The team also made several key additions in the offseason, including Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia. While they may have been signed as free agents, each player's salary needs to be accounted for. 

Aguero and Messi have played together for Argentina and were both on the squad that won the Copa America this summer, earning Messi his first major international trophy.

Though Barcelona finished last year just third in La Liga, these additions were expected to help boost the club heading into 2021-22 and convince Messi to remain with the organization.

B/R Football @brfootball

Lionel Messi at Barcelona.<br><br>Thank you for the memories. 💙❤️ <a href="https://t.co/PA3JMaShGV">pic.twitter.com/PA3JMaShGV</a>

The 34-year-old will instead leave after 17 years with the first team, featuring 10 La Liga titles and six Ballon d'Or awards. He made his first senior appearance as a 17-year-old in 2004-05 and went on to be named to the UEFA Team of the Year 11 different times.

There will be no shortage of clubs interested in the superstar, especially after scoring 30 goals in 35 league matches last season. Both Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly "keeping a close eye" on the situation, according to Mundo Deportivo (h/t Freddie Pye of Sports Illustrated).

A move to Manchester City would allow Messi to rejoin manager Pep Guardiola, who coached Barcelona to two Champions League titles during his run from 2008-12. The Premier League squad lost in the UCL final last season and could use Messi to help get over the top.

PSG reached the Champions League finals two years ago and lost in the semifinals last year, but Messi could create an exciting attack with Kylian Mbappe and former Barcelona teammate Neymar.