Lionel Messi has reached a verbal agreement on a five-year contract extension with Barcelona, with his salary cut by 50% under the terms of the new deal.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner was officially a free agent from July 1 after failing to agree an extension before his previous contract with Barcelona expired on June 30.
Earlier in July, Messi led Argentina to the Copa America title with a 1-0 win in the final against host nation Brazil, ending his wait for a first major international trophy.
The 34-year-old has now agreed to stay with his youth club for another five years, meaning he will be 39 by the time his new contract expires – when he will be on the club’s books for a total of 26 years.
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Messi sparked a bitter transfer dispute in August last year when he officially informed the club that he wanted to activate a clause in his contract that would see him leave for free.
However, La Liga presidents Javier Tebas and Josep Maria Bartomeu – then Barcelona president – blocked the move, indicating that the clause was only active until June 10 and that each suitor would have to pay their €700 million release clause in full.
“I thought and we were sure that I would be a free agent,” Messi told Goal.
“The president always told me that at the end of the season I could decide to stay or go and they are now clinging to the fact that I hadn’t said anything on June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 the La Het Liga season was still going on and we were in the midst of this virus and disease that changed the entire competition calendar.
“And that’s why I’m staying at the club. I’m staying now because the president told me the only way I could leave was by paying the €700 million severance clause, which is impossible.”
Bartomeu resigned in October, while Messi wanted to listen to his successor Joan Laporta’s plans before making a decision about his future.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the leading clubs interested in signing him. Messi also wants to play in the MLS someday.