It’s widely reported that Lionel Messi will sign with FC Barcelona for five years, at a 50% wage reduction. His contract expired while he was on international duty with Argentina, and he was technically a free agent, and it’s not official yet. But this is incredibly good news for FC Barcelona.
First, a wage reduction of that magnitude is unheard of for a superstar who is a free agent and looking a favorite for the yearly best player award. I’m not even talking football only, I’m talking any sport. If there is another case like that, hats off, but I’ve never heard of it.
Messi wanted to leave last summer. He correctly criticized the president for failing to create a winning project. But he stayed and had a great season.
Rumors began to spring up about a two-year deal. After those two years, he would join the MLS. Of course, Messi staying was great news but the part about MLS felt too quick when he’s still performing at this level today and when there are older players still going, like Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović
Then, Messi became a free agent. We were told to be calm, but I’m sure everyone was worried. Paris Saint-Germain made one last push. They offered more money, and to be honest, a team with a lot more strength at least on paper to help him win the UEFA Champions League.
The latest news should have fans of the Catalan giants counting their lucky stars.
Barcelona is in a financial crisis and have a lot of players earning monster wages and not earning their keep. The likes of Miralem Pjanić, Samuel Umtiti, and Philippe Coutinho are earning like superstars but barely play. Then you have other players like Ousmane Dembélé or Sergi Roberto, who have their uses but are completely overpaid and have recently struggled with injuries. True, Messi was the highest earner, but he gave back to the club more than he earned in terms of quality and in terms of revenue, and that cannot be said for those guys.
And yet, Messi is the one accepting the wage reduction whereas the rest aren’t, apart from Roberto. Of course, both Messi and Roberto are players who call Barcelona home since they were children, whereas the rest came later, and any player is entitled to see out their contract. But what Messi is doing for the club here is huge.
Messi is irreplaceable, and honestly signing for what is relatively very cheap. There is no other player near his quality available right now with no transfer free. I mean, obviously not - it’d be laughable to suggest that. And on top of that, no top player would play for free. In fact, they’d probably want a wage increase to leave their old team. Yes, Messi at 50% wages is still a lot, but any attempt to replace him would be costly as well. And we say costly but impossible is probably more accurate.
Not to mention, Barcelona earns a lot of revenue because of him. People don’t watch matches to see Pjanić play for Barcelona. Zero people did that last season. People watch to watch Messi.
This is a gigantic gift to the club, and purely out of loyalty.
Secondly, the rumor says that he will sign for five seasons, not two. Of course, we can’t say for sure whether he will stay for five years or not. But what has been reported is that both the club and the player are interested in him staying in La Liga for longer than two years.
The idea of Messi playing in the MLS or for his hometown club Newell’s Old Boys is very interesting and in some ways, quite exciting. But considering he’s a Ballon d’Or favorite today, and the advances in sport science, I think he’s likely too good for MLS or the Argentine league in two years. We can’t see the future of course, but it seems what’s logically likely to me.
One final aspect of this is the five substitutions rule. With five subs, you can afford to play someone off the bench more often. As he gets older, Messi could be used more sparingly in this way. I think a few players’ careers will be extended by the fact that a team can use more “luxury” substitutions. In particular, a set-piece specialist could be subbed on for key set pieces late in matches. We’ll see.
Again, the announcement is not official. We only have reports. But if the details are correct, this is huge for Barcelona fans.