On the weekend that Lionel Messi scored the 650th goal of his Barcelona career, a sensational news story broke over how much the Argentine is being paid at the Camp Nou.
Ahead of Barcelona’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao on 31 January, in which Messi scored the opening goal, Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported that Messi will earn a mind-boggling gross total of €555,237,619 (£494.m) throughout his current four-year deal, which expires on 30 June.
Signed in 2017, the contract is described as the “largest in the history of sport” and threatens to “ruin” Barca, El Mundo said. The Catalan club recently finished top of Deloitte’s Football Money League, but the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on their finances has left them “on the verge of bankruptcy”, The Guardian adds.
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Messi’s future has been the subject of rumour following a torrid few years for Barcelona. They failed to win a trophy last season and were on the receiving end of an 8-2 hammering by Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Manchester City, Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain have all been linked with signing the Argentine when his contract expires this summer.
‘People want to hurt Barca and Leo’
“Whoever has leaked Messi’s contract cannot have a future at Barca,” Koeman said. “What has come out in the press about Messi was done maliciously.
“We have to try to know how this could have come out in the press. We have to concentrate on our season. The team’s been fine lately. We won a lot of games. We don’t have to focus on this issue, but there are people who want to hurt Barca and Leo.
“Messi has been demonstrating his quality as a footballer for years, has helped a lot to make this club great and has helped a lot to win titles.”
Barca threaten legal action
Reports in Spain say that Messi will take legal action against the newspaper. Barcelona have also said they will take “appropriate legal action” against the publication - after denying the club was the source of the leak.
In a statement Barca said: “In view of the information published today in the newspaper El Mundo, in relation to the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and the player Lionel Messi, the club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties.
“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.
“FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
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