Barcelona have stated their fury after Lionel Messi’s contract leaked in the Spanish press and threatened legal action against El Mundo after the newspaper published details.
However, more details were brought to light via the Madrid daily on Monday, despite the declaration from the Catalan giants.
Barcelona find themselves in financial turmoil with debts of over £1bn – despite boasting the highest revenues in European football – over £200million of which must be repaid to banks by June 30.
El Mundo reported on Sunday that Messi’s current deal – signed in 2017 and due to expire this summer – is worth a huge £491million.
Los Cules have duly threatened to take “appropriate legal action”, having confirmed the veracity of the document in question.
They stated: “FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document.”
They added: “FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
On Sunday night, a seething Ronald Koeman has had his say on the matter, vowing to identify whoever is responsible and sack them.
The Dutchman also labelled the leak “malicious”.
Speaking after Sunday night’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao, Koeman said: “Whoever has leaked Messi’s contract cannot have a future at Barca.
“What has come out in the press about Messi was done maliciously.
“We have to try to know how this could have come out in the press. We have to concentrate on our season. The team’s been fine lately. We won a lot of games. We don’t have to focus on this issue, but there are people who want to hurt Barca and Leo.
“Messi has been demonstrating his quality as a footballer for years, has helped a lot to make this club great and has helped a lot to win titles.”
El Mundo’s initial report on Messi’s contract – “a sum equivalent to the aid approved by the Latvian government against Covid for the next five years” – labelled it “the pharaonic contract that ruins Barcelona”.
Equally as damning, they declare it a contract that “shows the servitude of former president [Josep Maria] Bartomeu before the star” and which has helped to take the club “from glory to ruin.”
Koeman added: “I don’t understand why they say he’s ruined Barca.
“He’s spent years and years showing his quality as a footballer. We must highlight what he’s done for this club. He’s helped make this club great and we have to stop with all this contract nonsense.”
Messi has also threatened to take legal action also while he has been defended by La Liga president Javier Tebas on social media.
One man who has denied anything to do with the leaking of Messi’s deal is ex-president Bartomeu.
The controversial former Camp Nou supremo – whose soured tenure led to Messi pushing to leave the club last summer – hit out at suggestions that he had been involved in the information leak.
Going public via TV3 program Gol a Gol on Sunday night, Bartomeu said: “I’m sorry to hear that I have leaked the contract, it is totally false. It is a very serious and totally illegal topic to filter professional contracts.
“Speaking on television and accusing is easy, but we are not kidding because this will end up in court.
“By the way, Messi deserves what he charges for both sporting and commercial reasons. And without a pandemic, Barça could perfectly pay these figures.”
There remains fury from the Messi camp that the details have been leaked from a contract that had been perhaps the most guarded in all of sports.
There are only four copies of the intricately detailed contract: one with Messi, one with Barca, one with La Liga and one also with the law firm used by the Argentine, Cuatrecasas.
While Messi won’t have received the full £491million by the time his contract is up due to missing out on a number of performance-related add-ons – La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey failures – as well as accepting a pay cut then the coronavirus pandemic first hit last March.
In Monday’s latest collection of leaks, the unrepentant El Mundo state that on July 15 – two weeks after Messi’s current contract expires – Barca are beholden to pay him a loyalty payment of £34.3m.
That figure will ultimately be included in next season’s accounting.
Staggeringly, it means that they face still paying him even if he has walked out on the club by then.
El Mundo have also gone into detail about Messi’s use of social media, and a clause within his employment contract that prohibits Messi from criticising management at the club.
It’s claimed that on three occasions, notably in his critique of former teammate turned sporting director Eric Abidal, Messi did not comply.
The 34 year-old’s long-term future remains in question, with potential moves to Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain mooted.
However, it is not out of the realms of possibility that Barca, still yet to hold elections to confirm a new president and board following Bartomeu’s departure, can persuade Messi to remain.
In a recent interview he declared that he is yet to make a decision on his future, and will choose his next step at the end of the season.
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