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Argentina striker Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona despite both parties having reached an agreement over a new contract, the La Liga club said on Thursday, citing economic and structural obstacles to the renewal of a deal.

Messi was free to negotiate a transfer with other clubs after his deal ran out at the end of June, but Barcelona had always maintained he wanted to stay with the club.

The 34-year-old, who has spent his whole career at Barcelona, had been expected to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, which would have included a salary reduction of 50%.

Barcelona needed to financially restructure in order to get the deal over the line, which proved impossible in the end.

The news of Messi’s exit comes a day after La Liga agreed in principle to sell 10% of a newly formed company housing most of its business to private equity firm CVC Capital Partners for 2.7 billion euros ($3.2 billion).

“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish La Liga regulations),” Barca said in a statement.

Top scorer with 672 goals

“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”

Messi had tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a break down in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu but successor Joan Laporta, who presided over the Argentine’s rise to greatness, convinced him to stay.

Messi, who joined Barca’s youth set up aged 13, is the club’s all-time top scorer and appearance maker with 672 goals in 778 games in all competitions.

He remains without a club ahead of the 2021-22 season.

(REUTERS)

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