Lionel Messi: Could star have played for Barcelona for free?

  • Tom Ward
Lionel Messi would have been legally unable to play for Barcelona for free

Lionel Messi is about to do something that he has never done before.

For the first time in his career, the Barcelona star will be forced to step outside of his comfort zone and try something a little bit different.

The Argentina superstar is now a free agent after failing to agree on a new contract at the Nou Camp amid reported interest from Chelsea, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. 

Messi’s shock exit has led some Barça fans to question why he couldn’t stay at the club and play for free as they mourn the loss of one of the greatest players of all time.

@Jsseguya_ tweeted: “Can’t Messi do us a solid and play for free next season.”

It would have been 'legally impossible' for Lionel Messi to play for Barcelona for free

And another fan added: “This is crazy. So, Bartomeu mismanaged the club but Messi should play for free.”

Some Barcelona fans have pinned the blame on the club's former president Josep Bartomeu

@_MessiMagic also commented: “I think Messi would play for free rather than leaving.”

Many Barcelona fans can't believe the club legend is leaving this summer.

However, according to European football expert Colin Millar, it would have been ‘legally impossible’ for him to do so, since Spanish law requires any new contract to be at least 50% of a player’s previous wage. 

Taking to Twitter on Sunday morning, Millar wrote: “It would have been legally impossible for Lionel Messi to play for free at Barcelona.

“Any new contract is, by Spanish law, required to be a minimum of 50 percent of previous wage (this is in place to avoid financial manipulation).”

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Millar, who writes for The Mirror and a number of other publications, also revealed that Messi, like the rest of us, was left taken aback by the sudden turn of events.  

“It was a very emotional press conference,” he told talkSPORT. “Obviously, Messi broke down in tears pretty much straight away, and I think it wasn’t just the emotion but the words were significant as well. 

“He said that he did everything he could to stay at the club, he agreed a 50% wage cut, but that wasn’t enough.

“And I think the words that Messi used today gave us quite a good indication that he expected to be staying at Barcelona this season up until the last few days and something at the club, the club’s position, had changed.”

He also explained it would have been almost mathematically impossible for the club to keep their best player on their books.

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The journalist added: “And this is obviously a long-running thing, alright, we know Barcelona are in a deep financial crisis, but the club president Joan Laporta this week sort of explained it a bit more about those figures and just how bad their position was.  

“They ran up losses last year of almost 500 million Euros, and their wage budget, which is going to be improved by La Liga this season, limits them to just under 200 million Euros. 

“So we’re talking about Barcelona having a wage budget which is comparable to maybe a midtable Premier League club.

“So that shows you how much they need to shift off the wage bill, they weren’t able to register Messi as a player for the upcoming season, they haven’t been able to register any of their four new signings, including Sergio Aguero, of course. 

“They needed to make these huge cutbacks and what they needed to do was to get about 70% of their wages to be going from their revenue.

“But at the moment, before Messi left, it was 110%, and with Messi leaving, it’s still 95%.

“So you can see that, no matter what decision Messi had made, or what approach the club had made, they simply could not afford to keep him on their books.”

Read more: Lionel Messi’s shirt number at PSG revealed as Barcelona legend confirms exit

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