The forward has technically been a free agent for five days, so what's going on?
FC Barcelona are in a difficult position if they want to renew Lionel Messi. Every minute counts and it's not five days since he officially became a free agent. President Joan Laporta has repeatedly after calm and assures the club are working on making a renewal a reality with both parties keen to sign. However, after Javier Tebas, the La Liga president refused to budge on the salary cap rules, Barça have found an obstacle in keeping Messi at Camp Nou.
La Liga have a salary cap for all teams to ensure financial fair play and Barça must knock 200 million euros off their wage bill in respect to last season. The delicate financial situation, worsened by the pandemic, does not help. It's calculated that since the start of the pandemic and the closing of stadiums until June 30 2021, Barça have lost around 580 million euros. That supposes that of last season's 347 million euro salary cap, the club must half it, down to around 150 million or 160 million, the same limit as clubs like Villarreal and Athletic.
From the meeting between Joan Laporta, Mateu Alemany and Javier Tebas, we can extract two things. Firstly, that La Liga will be inflexible with Barça and secondly that for every 100 million knocked off, 25 million more can be added. In addition, to comply with the rules, Barça must reduce the number of players in the squad, which is currently higher than the 25 permitted.
The club are ready to do all they can, not just financially, to keep the best player in the world. Laporta's assured on several occasions that Messi wants to stay and that's Barça's priority. Therefore, Barça must sacrifice other players to be able to remain within the fair play rules and inscribe Messi and the three new signings to date, Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia. Here are some of the options to keep Messi in the squad.
This is one of the options the club are working on. Players are finally leaving. Junior Firpo's off to Leeds for 15 million euros and Francisco Trincao has joined Wolves on loan. Matheus Fernandes, Konrad de la Fuente, Jean-Clair Todibo and Juan Miranda have all left permanently, too. Meanwhile, the club are working hard on moving on Samuel Umtiti, Philippe Coutinho and Miralem Pjanic. All three are on big wages but they won't account for the 200 million needed.
For that reason, we can't rule out any other player leaving. For example, Griezmann, Busquets and Alba have big salaries. What cannot be done are exchanges like Neto-Cillessen as it's now prohibited.
MORE WAGE CUTS
Another option the club have considered is to reduce the wages of big earners: Gerard Piqué, Jordi Alba, Sergi Roberto, Sergio Busquets, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembélé all fit that bracket. That allows Barça to lighten their wage bill without cutting the squad.
Despite the players understanding the situation and some of them, Pique for example, being ready to accept cuts, it can't be forgotten that they've already had various reductions. Busquets explained on Cadena COPA that he has confidence the president will keep Leo at the club. "The best thing is that we play together for many more years."
Josep Maria Bartomeu, the former Barça president, had an alternative plan to increase income and renew Messi. He wanted to sell 50 percent of Barça Corporate, which would bring in around 500 million euros. The salary cap is related to revenue in one year minus structural expenses. That's all expenses not related to the sporting side of the business directly. For example, sponsorship contracts, season ticket revenue, television revenue and prize money etc.
That way, Barça's salary limit would increase and they could include Messi's renewal. It's clear a lot of collaboration is going to be needed to complete this puzzle. The club will have to be creative to prolong Messi's stay and, at the same time, reduce their wage bill.
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