FC Barcelona's technical secretariat is working to conclude 'operation exit' (its mission to find new suitors for various first team players, which will allow next season's squad to take shape) and reduce its wage bill by 31 August, the date which marks the closure of the transfer market in the biggest European leagues. There are 35 days to go.
Barça has already let several players go, but the squad needs to be trimmed further. This is particularly true for the club's high earners such as Antoine Griezmann, Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic, Martin Braithwaite and Neto. It also needs to convince its 'captains', some of the most senior dressing room figures, to agree to a wage cut. The clock is ticking, and the club is yet to resolve an issue that it considers key to unlocking the current impasse: the announcement of Leo Messi's contract renewal.
The club reached an agreement in principle with the player's agent, Jorge Messi, a fortnight ago. Since then, the task of formally writing the agreement up has been left to the lawyers of both parties, and this process is still ongoing.
According to FC Barcelona sources, the club is in a hurry to formalise the renewal because this would allow it to accelerate other departures and wage cut negotiations. How long until Leo Messi's contract renewal is announced? When will it be made official? To date, Barcelona does not have the answer to these questions. No specific date has been set.
The club maintains that everything is moving in the right direction, just as Joan Laporta repeats every time he is asked about Messi's renewal. For now, however, no announcement is expected in the coming hours.
At first, the club had hoped that Messi would put pen to paper at some point this week. However, a few small details still need to be sorted out, and this could delay the announcement until the first week of August. "We want the contract to be signed. Time is ticking, but we can't rush things. Some timescales need to be respected", said a source close to the negotiation.
The club's main objective is to make Messi feel comfortable. The player has already signalled his commitment to Barcelona by finishing the Copa América without a contract, rejecting all offers from other clubs and even agreeing to a 50% wage cut in order to extend his stay at Camp Nou. All of this, because he wants to remain a Barça player.
Just as president Joan Laporta alluded to in Memphis Depay's official presentation on Thursday, the club is highly respectful of Messi and his entourage. It doesn't want to get ahead of itself and risk jeapardising the whole negotiation after so many weeks of hard work. That is Barça's current situation. It is understood that Laporta's "dream" of announcing Leo Messi's contract renewal could arrive in the next ten days or so, after the Argentina captain returns to Barcelona following his post-season break.
Messi's return to pre-season training has been pencilled in for 2 August: the same day that Kun Agüero, Emerson and Ronald Araujo - the three other players who competed in this summer's Copa América - are due to return to training. The rest of Barça's first team squad will be undergoing a training camp in Stuttgart at the same time. These four players will need to pass Covid-19, physical and medical assessments before they can train with the rest of the first team squad upon their return from Germany.
Messi's contract renewal, which will tie him down as a Barça player for the rest of his career, is expected to be announced around these dates. The club's technical secretariat hopes that this operation will make everything else that little bit easier.