Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has reportedly decided to delay contract negotiations with the club until the end of the year.
Carlos Carpio of Marca has stated that Messi, whose contract runs until 2018, made the choice in July to wait until 2017 to make a final decision on his future, something that is said to have troubled Barca president Josep Maria Bartomeu. However, according to Sport, the story from Marca is "an act of revenge" after Barcelona decided not to attend the newspaper's awards gala.
Here’s a look at how the initial story was covered in the newspaper, per 101 Great Goals:
"After recovering from the initial shock, Bartomeu insisted that everyone remain calm, asking the player to think about what he was doing twice, and the Barcelona president remitted the €250 million release clause in his contract after the seventh and final time the player renewed with the club in May 2014," Carpio added.
It’s also noted that there has been no contact between the player’s entourage and club officials since, although Messi’s father, Jorge, is now willing to listen to Barca’s offer.
Carpio also stated that Messi’s recent tax fraud trial—after which he was hit with a suspended 21-month prison sentence, although he didn’t serve time behind bars—has played a role in his decision to delay negotiations, as did the heartbreaking loss Argentina endured against Chile in the summer’s Copa America, the country's third major final defeat in three summers.
However, Sport has dismissed the veracity of the story, citing non-attendance at the aforementioned awards. "The club rejected the invitation because, among other reasons, they gave Javier Tebas a fair play award, something that came after the LFP president blasted Barcelona players who were attacked by Valencia fans," the piece continued.
For Barcelona fans, these reports will represent something of a concern. After all, the Argentina international remains a talismanic figure at the Camp Nou and the finest footballer on the planet in the eyes of those associated with the Blaugrana.
These numbers from OptaJose sum up how much of an impact he has in the final third for Luis Enrique’s side:
Messi leaving the Camp Nou would have more than a footballing effect, though. Around the stadium and indeed the city of Barcelona itself the forward’s face is emblazoned, while jerseys read his name and number. The 29-year-old has established himself as a deistic figure during his time at the football club.
Those tied to the team will be hoping he continues to forge that reputation over many years to come. Subsequently, an expiry date of 2018 on his current deal will be a little too close for comfort for some Cules.
After all, some clubs have the power to match Messi’s aforementioned release clause and offer him a lucrative salary. According to a report from Adam Crafton of the Daily Mail in June, Manchester United were said to be considering a move for the player ahead of the 2017-18 season.
Even so, Barcelona fans shouldn’t be getting too worried quite yet. After all, earlier in November, Bartomeu revealed to Sky Sports (h/t Juan Jimenez of AS) that preliminary talks had started with respect to an extension for the player.
Although Carpio stated that the Barca man wants to play for Newell's Old Boys, his boyhood club, in the future, it’s difficult to imagine Messi donning the colours of any European team other than the Blaugrana or the club wanting to move him on. It’d be a major surprise if the forward decided not to extend his stay in Catalonia.