As the best player of his generation and some argue the greatest of all time, Lionel Messi has been and reportedly continues to be coveted by plenty of the world’s top clubs. Yet, according to both the Argentinean and his current employers, he won’t be leaving Barcelona any time soon.
In the lead up to Barcelona’s Champions League meeting with Paris Saint-Germain this week, speculation resurfaced that Messi would be targeted by the mega-rich French champions. Late last year it was even reported that PSG, owned by Qatar Sports Investments, were ready to meet Messi’s release clause of €250 million, thereby more than doubling the current transfer record. But Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu insisted in the French capital that the idea of selling the club’s all-time leading goalscorer has never even been considered.
“It's not true,” he said in an interview with French publication L’Equipe, per ESPN. “Never have we had this type of discussion about Messi. In April or May I said that we would make radical changes, but with Messi as the leader.
“He's under contract for the next four years and it won't be the last [contract] with Barca. He's still young and ambitious. For us, he's the best player in the history of football. I have no information that Messi might have spoken to PSG. We're opponents on the pitch but also off it, with regard to sponsors and players.”
In other comments this week, Bartomeu spoke of his hope that Messi would retire at the Spanish giants, something that the 27-year-old himself stated was his desire in January. Around that time there had been rumors of Messi being unsettled, but he once again affirmed his commitment to the club he joined as a 13-year-old when signing a new contract in May. It is believed that the new deal, which runs until 2018, once again made him the world’s highest-paid player, taking him onto a net annual salary of €20 million.
“It was quick and easy,” Messi said of the contract negotiations when speaking at an event on Thursday, according to Spanish publication AS. “We agreed in minutes and I had no hesitation about staying here. At the moment I’m not thinking of playing anywhere else, although life is full of surprises. I am only thinking about Barcelona.”
Even were Messi considering leaving Barcelona, whose once dominance in Spain and Europe has been ended in the past two years, there is a short list of clubs who could even think about affording the unprecedented financial package it would take to appease both the Catalan giants and Messi. Along with PSG, Premier League big guns Chelsea and Manchester City as well as the then fantastically wealthy Russian club Anzhi Makhachkala have been named at various times as having considered meeting Messi’s release clause.
If anything, the number of feasible destinations for Messi has shrunk. Anzhi have had the financial rug pulled from under them, while billionaire-owned Monaco have also scaled back their once lavish project considerably in recent months. The owners of PSG, Chelsea and City are all capable of spending what it would take to sign Messi and likely would love the prestige of luring the four-time world player of the year. Yet UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules means even they will struggle to make it viable.
Chelsea have significantly cut back on the massive spending of the early days of Roman Abramovich’s reign in order to ensure compliance with FFP. Manchester City and PSG, meanwhile, were both punished by UEFA this summer for failing to so adequately. As a result both faced further constraints that hampered their activity in the transfer market. City were unable to make a deal for Colombian striker Radamel Falcao work within the restrictions, while PSG had a similarly frustrating realization in their pursuit of Angel di Maria. Both players subsequently joined Manchester United. Perhaps the fallen Premier League giants would be capable of affording Messi in the future, but they appear fully occupied with trying to finance a deal to bring Messi’s long-time rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, back to Old Trafford. Expect, then, Messi’s incredible goal-scoring records at Barcelona to be enhanced by some distance yet.