Barcelona have denied leaking details of Lionel Messi’s contract – which is reportedly worth up to €555m (£492m) over four seasons – and have threatened to sue the newspaper responsible for its publication.
Spain’s El Mundo newspaper said it had access to the document Messi signed with the Catalan club in 2017, which included fixed incomes and extras that could reach nearly €138m (£122m) each season, which the publication claims is the most expensive contract ever paid to an athlete.
Barcelona, who have been led by a caretaker board since president Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned in October while facing a no-confidence motion ahead of new presidential elections on March 7, said they support Messi and would take action against the newspaper.
“In view of the information published today in the newspaper El Mundo, in relation to the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and the player Lionel Messi, the club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties,” a club statement said.
“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.
“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.”
Barcelona’s finances have been tightened following the coronavirus crisis, with interim president Carlos Tusquets saying in December that the club should have sold Messi during the summer transfer window.
“Economically speaking, I would’ve sold Messi in the summer window,” Tusquets told RAC1 radio station. “Both in terms of what you save on the wage bill as well as the money you make, it would’ve been desirable. But this is something the coaching staff have to consent to and that’s not my place.
“La Liga are setting salary limits at the moment and this would’ve helped on that front.”
Messi, the club’s all-time leading goalscorer, wanted to exercise a clause in his contract which he said allowed him to leave for free.
But the Argentine reluctantly decided to stay after now-former president Bartomeu insisted the 33-year-old’s €700m release clause had to be met in order for him to depart.
Barcelona can move into second place in La Liga with a home win against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.