La Liga Rules May Not Allow Barcelona to Keep Lionel Messi
Lionel Messi's contract at Barcelona ran out at the end of June, 2021.
It has not been too many days since we saw Lionel Messi weep with joy and celebrate with childlike enthusiasm at the Maracana after Argentina claimed their first major title in 28 years. Messi had been instrumental, of course, in the Copa America winning campaign.
The 34-year-old though can walk away without any ado after his enormous 4-year, 500-million-euro Barcelona contract expired at the stroke of midnight on 1 July. In the fortnight that has followed since, Messi hasn’t said a word about Barcelona while the club themselves maintain that the situation is under control. Since he is a free agent, he needs to be registered as a new player for Barcelona in La Liga.
While Messi has steadfastly remained loyal to the only football club he has ever signed a contract at, his future remains in doubt because of the club’s debt-ridden financial situation.
The association dates back to 2000, when the first contract was signed with the club on a napkin at the Club de Tennis Pompeia cafeteria. He was 12 at the time.
What is the Current Contract Situation?
Messi, who had his share of disagreements with the previous management, no doubt wants to stay in Barcelona and new club president Joan Laporta came to power promising that he would do everything to keep the Argentine at the Nou Camp. His contract ran out at the end of June when he was playing in the Copa America for Argentina. It is largely expected that he will sign on the dotted line soon on return to Spain.
Currently, Barcelona needs to cut their wage bill and according to a report in New York Times, unless the club reduce 200 million euros from their wage bill, they won’t be able to register any new players, including Messi.
The club faces debts of more than 1 billion euros and losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars and are finding it tough to balance its books in compliance with the league rules.
La Liga rules put a cap on the spending to only a percentage of club revenue and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barcelona's salary limit was set at 348 million euros. The league calculates different limits for each team based on each club’s income statements, but caps spending at 70 percent of revenues. The rules also say that a team can spend only a quarter of the money it receives from player sales on new contracts.
The league officials led by President Javier Tebas have refused to weaken their rules.
Even as Barcelona look to a find a way out and maintain a confident face up until then, Messi will most likely have to accept a substantial pay cut. The club on their part have throughout maintained that everything is working smoothly in the process of Messi signing a new contract.
Only recently did Laporta said on Mago Pop's show 'Nothing is Impossible', "Messi's renewal is progressing adequately.
What About the New Signings?
In the off season, Barcelona signed Messi’s friend and international teammate Sergio Aguero, Depay and the Spanish national team defender Eric García – all as free agents which meant the club had no transfer fees to pay.
But none of them can play as the league won't register the signings till the cost cuts are made by the club.
While Depay is said to have taken a pay cut after being announced, Garcia too has reportedly agreed to reduced wages. But given the rules about player sales, it could push Barcelona into offloading some of their key players such Marc Andre ter Stegen and Antoine Griezmann.
What Does La Liga Say?
According to the La Liga chief Javier Tebas there is no question on relenting on the rules for Barcelona because the organization believes that would lead more debt apart from the fact that the club themselves have been impulsive and handed out ill-judged contracts.
"To open up the situation would just cause more debt. We studied it a lot and think the regulation is acceptable and all clubs should abide by it. All clubs approved this regulation themselves.
"It’s not the first time in recent years that this has happened where a club signs players but can’t register the player. I am sure Barcelona will sort it out but if they don’t they won’t be able to register the players.
"The big difference between Barcelona and the pandemic is that they have always been at the limit of the wages. When the pandemic came along then they didn’t have that buffer so they wouldn’t be affected by this squad limit issue.
"No other clubs have pushed to that absolute limit. They have lost €350 million (£300m/$415m) in revenue since the pandemic, so it is not normal really, especially in our league, to push right to that last Euro in the salary limit. If they have to cancel contracts, maybe it is cheaper than the money they are paying for their wage bill. I think they are on the right path,” Tebas was quoted as saying by Goal.com.
(With inputs from New York Times and Goal.com)
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