Lionel Messi will end his 20-year career with Barcelona after the Argentine superstar and the Spanish giants were unable to overcome “economic and structural obstacles” to a new deal, a bombshell certain to spark a high-stakes scramble for a player widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time.
“Although an agreement has been reached between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi it cannot be formalised due to economic and structural obstacles,” said a statement from the club.
“Faced with this situation, Lionel Messi will not be staying at Barcelona. Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the club cannot come true.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”
Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi, 34, last month finally landed a major international trophy with Argentina when they beat rivals Brazil to win the Copa America.
But there had been doubts over his continuation at Barcelona ever since he tried to leave last August as a free agent, citing a clause in his contract and saying the club had had “no project or anything for a long time”.
Messi, Barca’s all-time top scorer, appearance maker and with who he win 35 trophies, ultimately agreed to see out the final year as the club threatened to go to court.
The player, who signed his first contract with Barcelona in 2000 on a napkin when he was just 13, has been a free agent since June 30 when his old agreement expired after Messi had played 788 games for the club.
Last season was a comparative disappointment as the club could only land the Spanish Cup and exited in the last 16 of the Champions League, which they last won back in 2015.
There had been speculation that Messi would sign on for two years and then potentially head to Major League Soccer, although friend and former Barca teammate Neymar has said he would love to team up with him again at Paris Saint Germain.
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