Lionel Messi is set to extend his stay at Barcelona by signing a new five-year deal, with the Argentine talisman set to take a wage cut, La Vanguardia newspaper and ESPN reported on Wednesday.
Messi, Barca’s all-time top scorer and appearance maker, technically ended his 21-year association with the club last month and is currently a free agent after his previous contract expired.
Since Joan Laporta took over as Barca president, the club had been trying to reduce their wage bill in order to keep Messi and stay within La Liga’s strict financial control rules.
La Liga chief Javier Tebas said last week that Barcelona, which has a total debt of more than 1 billion euros ($1.18 billion), would not be shown any leniency.
Messi’s last contract signed in 2017 at four years, $674 million, was the most lucrative deal in world sport according to a January report in the newspaper, El Mundo.
The club has been trying to rebuild the squad with Junior Firpo, Jean-Clair Todibo, and Carles Alena being sold to make way for free signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, and Eric Garcia.
It’s been a massive week for Messi, 34, who won his first major international title with Argentina over the weekend when they beat rivals Brazil in the Copa America final.
Messi was elected the tournament’s joint best player along with Neymar after finishing as the tournament’s joint-top goalscorer with four goals while he also topped the assists charts with five.
There had been speculation — even hope — that Messi could move elsewhere this summer in a deal that one day might have seen him playing in New York City.
Last summer, English giants Manchester City were reportedly “weighing up” the possibility of proposing a long-term contract for Messi. The first three years would have seen him play in England’s Premier League before moving to Manchester City’s sister club in the United States, NYCFC.
Additional reporting has been provided by Joe Pantorno