A “Messi” Situation in Barcelona
By: Luke Pacifici
It is gameday in Barcelona. Almost 100k fans from around the world flood into Camp Nou, awaiting the arrival of their championship winning team led by one of the greatest to ever play the sport. Stories are shared, statistics are researched, and rumors are spread. Everyone is raising their scarves into the air as “El Cant del Barça” rings through the stadium. The referees and the 22 starting players emerge from the tunnels and there he is: Lionel Messi.
Lionel Messi has become one of the most popular athletes in the world. The Argentinian superstar has graced soccer with his intelligence, skill, and magic for almost 20 years. Most of his fame has come through his long career at F.C. Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain, where he has become an icon for his club, Spain, and the world.
Recently, there has been tension between Messi and Barcelona. For almost a year, Messi has been linked with rumors saying he would finally leave his one and only team. Unfortunately, Messi’s tough times with Barcelona were unfinished because in January of 2021 his contract was leaked by Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Valued at $672 million, Messi’s contract is the biggest ever in sports history. With confidentiality out the window, a legal mess has commenced as multiple parties are pointing fingers at each other to pass the blame.
Messi signed his contract in November of 2017 and it extends until June 30, 2021. The leaked contract could have seen Messi earn $167 million per season for four years including bonuses. El Mundo also reported Messi receiving a renewal fee of $139 million and a $94 million loyalty bonus. However, Messi took a salary cut at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic so he will not earn the entire $672 million. The contract was leaked on January 31, 2021 by El Mundo.
Lionel Messi has opted to take legal action against El Mundo and any Barca personnel involved in leaking the contract, although the specific type of action is yet to be revealed. Allegedly, only four parties had a copy of the contract: Messi, F.C. Barcelona, La Liga, and the law firm used by Messi. F.C. Barcelona denied any responsibility and vowed to “take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo.” The club publicly released a statement saying it “regrets [the contract’s] publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties.”
Messi’s contact leak has also created adverse ripple effects felt further within his club. F.C. Barcelona Head Coach Ronald Koeman, who noted that “[m]ore respect should be shown to a player that’s given so much to Spanish football.” He continued that “[Messi has] spent years and years showing his quality as a footballer…[and] we need to stop with all this contract nonsense.”
Messi’s future is unclear, but it seems like the market for the “Number 10” is more expensive than anyone might have imagined. With his last contract valued at $672 million over four years ($167 million per season plus bonuses), Lionel Messi boasts the largest known contract in sports history. For comparison, MLB star Fernando Tatis Jr. just signed a “record-breaking long-term deal” to stay with the San Diego Padres for 14 years at a $340 million contract value. In the NFL, Patrick Mahomes signed a “record-breaking deal” to stay with the Kansas City Chiefs for 10 years with a $503 million contract potential. The difference? These are two young players who still have their entire careers ahead of them. Lionel Messi is arguably getting closer to the end of his career, although anything seems possible for the magic man.
Currently, there are only two major teams linked with a Lionel Messi transfer this summer: Manchester City (England) and Paris Saint Germaine (France). European soccer fans know that these two teams are historically linked with spending big money for the world’s stars. Yet, wherever Messi ends up, his impact on the sport will remain unchanged. Regardless of how the legal actions resolve, Lionel Messi will still go down in history as one of the best to play the game.
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