Argentine international football legend Lionel Messi will no longer play for Spanish League top team FC Barcelona after a 21-year spell, it was announced Thursday. The Rosario-born Messi arrived in Barcelona when he was 12 years old.
Club authorities explained that Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it cannot be formalized due to economic and structural obstacles, in reference to Spanish League regulations.
Given this situation, Lionel Messi will not continue to be linked to FC Barcelona. The two parties deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the Club cannot finally be fulfilled, a club statement went on.
According to recent media reports, the signing of the new contract seemed imminent and Messi was expected to restart training Sunday, following a break during which he captained Argentina to the Copa America title with a 21st Century Maracanazo.
Spanish League Chairman Víctor Tebas had insisted Barcelona should respect at all times the salary limit set by the regulatory body and that Messi would not be spared from it.
Messi spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, where he has won every competition in which the club took, including four Champions League and ten Spanish League titles.
The Argentine star had threatened to leave the club last year after a row with the leadership, but eventually stayed until June, after which he became a free agent, despite which he was expected to renew his professional ties with the club after verbally agreeing to a 50% salary cut.
Messi's future now remains uncertain and many possible destinations seem likely, such as England's Manchester City and France's Paris Saint Germain (PSG), but with UEFA (Europe's football ruling body) regulations binding both clubs, the odds are still questionable.
Rumors mentioning PSG had been mopunting in the past few days due to a an Instagram photograph uploaded by Messi's Argentina teammate Ángel Di María, where the two of them are pictured alongside fellow Argentine Leandro Paredes, Brazil's Neymar and the Italian Marco Verrati. Except Messi the other four arer already PSG players and if they get along so well that the photo could bear the caption friends, a possible move looked quite likely.
Another option would be Miami, where Messi spent part of his vacation after the Copa América. The United States' MLS was always a desirable destination for the 34-year-old star, with the Qatar 2022 World Cup finals looming over.
There is yet another option which does not seem to be quite on the radar: Argentina's Professional League Newell's Old Boys, the Rosario club where Messi grew up and which would become the only team in history besides Barcelona to have featured both him and the late Diego Armando Maradona.
Messi was reportedly shocked when he learned the news that Barcelona would not go ahead with a new deal. He has also been said to be organizing some sort of farewell presentation before the Barcelona fans before leaving town.
FC Barcelona President Joan Laporta is expected to explain Friday the full reasons behind the departure of Messi, who joined the club's junior ranks in December 2000 and made his professional debut at the age of 17.
Meanwhile, PSG sources are unaware of any dealings which might land Messi playing for the French team, according to local media, and the club is said to be rather focused on keeping French striker Kylian Mbappé.
However, France's leading sports daily L'Équipe has heralded that Messi'd future will become this summer's great soap opera.