Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi signed a new contract earlier this week, committing his future to the club until 2018, and the Catalan giants have bumped up the Argentinian's release clause to a whopping £210m.

The three-time Ballon d'Or winner agreed a fresh six-year Barcelona contract on Tuesday, worth an estimated £17m per year gross until 2018. That totals a mammoth £102m in wages - which means Tito Vilanova's side value their best player at £312m, according to The Sun.

Messi signed on for another six years on the same day as Barcelona announced new deals for star midfielder Xavi, and club captain Carles Puyol.

And Barcelona director Toni Freixa said: "Puyol, Xavi and Messi are three basic pillars. It was absolutely necessary to have our principal pieces tied to the club.

"It's a great satisfaction for the board to give continuity to our project with these new deals."

The report claims Messi was earning close to £10m per year gross in his last contract, plus an additional 30 per cent depending on performances.

But recent changes to the tax laws in Spain have cost Barcelona a lot more. The highest tax bracket in Spain has increased from 24 per cent to 52 per cent - so Barcelona will have to pay much more in order to offer Messi a small pay rise.

The Sun reports this is Messi's sixth contract renewal, and claims negotiations were not as straightforward as first thought, with talks lasting the best part of four months.

But on the pitch, the Catalan giants have enjoyed their best-ever start to a La Liga season, chalking up 15 wins from 16 games, and Tito Vilanova's side sit nine points clear of second-placed Atletico Madrid.

Despite the loss of Pep Guardiola, the inspirational former-coach who won 14 trophies at four years at the Nou Camp, Barcelona have kicked on, and Messi has been in sensational form - his brace against Atletico on Sunday taking his tally to 90 for the year.

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