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Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona this summer

Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona this summer
© Reuters
Barcelona confirm that talismanic captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi will not sign a new contract with the club this summer.

Barcelona have confirmed that talismanic captain and six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi will not sign a new contract at the club this summer.

The 34-year-old has been a free agent since his previous deal at Camp Nou expired on June 30, but reports had suggested that he was expected to return to the club on a new five-year deal including a 50% pay cut.

However, Barcelona have now confirmed that, despite the two parties reaching an agreement, they are unable to re-sign their record appearance-maker and record goalscorer due to "financial and structural obstacles".

The Spanish giants are in a dire financial state which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, leaving them needing to significantly cut costs to meet La Liga's salary cap.

Despite Messi's willingness to slash his wages in half in order to stay at the club he has represented his entire career, La Liga rules have prevented Barcelona from extending the stay of their greatest ever player.

"Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations)," read a statement on Barcelona's official website.

"As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

"FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."

It is understood that Barcelona's financial plight has even prevented them from registering new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, all of whom joined on free transfers this summer.

Messi leaves Barcelona having broken countless records at the club and having firmly established himself as one of the greatest players of all time.

The Argentine, who won his first major international trophy at the Copa America this summer, made 778 appearances for Barcelona in total, scoring 672 times and creating a further 305 goals for his teammates to finish his Camp Nou career with a whopping 977 direct goal involvements.

Messi helped Barca to 34 trophies in total, including 10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues and seven Copas del Rey.

The prolific forward is among the front-runners to win a seventh Ballon d'Or crown this year, but attention will now turn to his next club.

Most clubs are likely to be priced out of a move for arguably the most high-profile free agent of all time, but the likes of Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain have been linked in the past.

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