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Lionel Messi To Leave FC Barcelona: Club Announces Shock Exit After Contract Dispute With La LigaBARCELONA, SPAIN – Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona shows his dejection during the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and RC Celta at Camp Nou on May 16, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo : David Ramos/Getty Images)

FC Barcelona fans are mourning after the club announced on Thursday that Lionel Messi would be leaving the Catalan giants. Barca’s ongoing financial difficulties prevented both parties from agreeing on a new contract, making the Argentina captain the most coveted free agent on the planet.

Many expected Messi to end his soccer career in Barcelona after reports surfaced last month that the 34-year-old had reached an agreement with the La Liga powerhouse on a new five-year deal.

FC Barcelona unable to register Messi’s new contract with La Liga

Despite Messi taking a huge pay cut in his supposed new deal, FC Barcelona could not register his new contract with La Liga as they continued to struggle to balance the books in compliance with the league’s financial fair play rules.

FC Barcelona released a statement regarding the matter, saying, “despite both parties clearly wanting to sign a new contract, it cannot be finalized due to financial and structural problems.” Later in the press release, they sent shockwaves, saying, “Given this situation, Messi will not continue his relationship with Barcelona.”

Messi has been a free agent since June 30, when his previous deal with FC Barcelona expired. That contract raised eyebrows everywhere after a report revealed that the four-year deal Messi signed back in 2017 was worth a whopping €500m, which includes his salary, bonuses, and image rights.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, FC Barcelona had the highest wage bill in La Liga at more than €600 million per season. The Catalan giants have since reduced that to just over €300 million, with La Liga strictly enforcing the new financial rules.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has been cracking the whip on FC Barcelona, whose current gross debt is over €1 billion, warning the club that they can’t register Messi’s new contract if they don’t make the necessary cutbacks elsewhere.

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Messi leaves Barcelona as the club’s greatest player

It appears FC Barcelona has failed in that regard, putting to an end Messi’s storied run with the club. He has played 810 professional games during his 21-year career with Barcelona, scoring an incredible 683 goals and winning 10 La Liga crowns, seven Copa del Rey trophies, four Champions League titles, and three FIFA Club World Cups.

If this is indeed the end for Messi in Barcelona, the race is now on for other teams to sign arguably the best player in the history of the sport. Even at the advanced age of 34, Messi’s stock is higher than ever as he is fresh off winning his first international title with Argentina in the 2021 Copa America.

In that tournament, he did it all for Argentina, grabbing four goals and five assists to make himself the outright favorite to win a record seventh Ballon d’Or title. Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the teams vying for his services next season, who have the cash to splash on Messi.