Barcelona are willing to let two first-team stars leave for free in a desparate bid to keep hold of Lionel Messi, according to reports in Spain.
Messi, 34, is technically a free agent after his contract at Camp Nou expired at the end of June, ending a 21-year uninterrupted stint on Barca’s books.
Nonetheless, it is still very possible the Argentine forward will agree to new terms with the Catalan giants once he returns from the Copa America in Brazil.
The structure of the deal is proving troublesome for Barcelona president Joan Laporta, however, as the club’s debts total over £1billion and Messi is sure to demand a huge wage.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner earned an eye-watering £122million per season from his previous contract, leaving Barca scrambling to prepare a suitable offer this summer.
The solution devised by club chiefs is to offload two big-earners from the wage list even if it means parting ways with them for free, according to Mundo Deportivo .
The duo on the chopping block are centre-back Samuel Umtiti and central midfielder Miralem Pjanic, neither of whom are a part of Ronald Koeman’s plans ahead of the new La Liga season.
Umtiti, 27, was once a brilliant performer for Barcelona and won the World Cup with France in 2018, but major injuries have seen him slip down the pecking order under Koeman.
Lyon and Marseille are monitoring the defender, but the report claims Umtiti is unhappy about the idea of leaving the club as part of their plan and still hopes to win his manager round.
Pjanic is understood to be more open to the idea of departing Barcelona and is yet to make a final decision on whether to do so.
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The Bosnia and Herzegovina international only arrived in Catalonia last summer from Juventus for a fee of €60million (£51m) and failed to make an impression during his debut campaign.
Even though Pjanic has three years remaining on his contract, Barcelona would welcome the chance to offload him for free if it would help them keep hold of Messi.
In his latest update on contract talks, Laporta said: “Messi? It is progressing. He wants to stay, we want him to stay. And we are on the way to find the formula.”
The Barcelona supremo is locked in talks with La Liga president Javier Tebas over easing salary cap regulations to ease the process of striking new terms with Messi.
Meanwhile, Messi has fired Argentina to the semi-finals of the ongoing Copa America, where they will face Colombia, and he is the tournament’s top goalscorer and top assister with four apiece.