Late Saturday night, Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a story that included the claim that they had obtained a copy of Lionel Messi’s contract with Barcelona. Per their report, Messi’s contract, which was signed in November 2017 and is set to expire at the end of this June,  calls for the star player to receive a maximum of €555,237,619 (US$673,919,105) over four seasons, presuming certain conditions were met.

Assuming those conditions had been met, it would have made this the biggest contract of any athlete in the world. However, some of the performance-related add-ons didn’t pan out and Messi did accept a pay cut last March during the coronavirus outbreak. So even if every other condition was met, he won’t end up making the full amount by June. Plus, Messi would have to pay out about half of that contract in taxes, too (Even so, he’s doing fine).

The contract, which has been kept under wraps until now, was at the heart of what plagued the relationship between the two sides in the last few years. Messi attempted to leave Barcelona last summer, noting that there was a clause in the contract that allowed him to walk away before it expired, though he eventually backed down from that claim and returned. However, it is presumed that Messi will leave Barca after June if there is no agreement or extension by then.

Both Messi and Barcelona are apparently upset with the reveal of the contract details. While the player hasn’t commented yet, Barca has decided to take legal action against El Mundo, as well as any team personnel who was involved in leaking the contract. It might be fairly easy to find out who did the leaking as, per ESPN, only four copies of the contract exist, distributed to Messi, Barca, La Liga, and Cuatrecasas, Messi’s law firm.

It has been reported that Messi is planning to take legal action, though nothing is confirmed. For their part, Barca has publicly denied the leak came from them and has released a statement vowing to take legal action.

“In view of the information published today 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.

“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.”

Legal concerns aside, the future for Messi and Barca remains muddled. He has said that he hasn’t made a decision yet but plans to do so soon. Negotiations between the two sides won’t be able to begin until March as a new club president needs to be elected first. Also, any new deal will be negotiated as the club is dealing with massive debts, reaching €1.2 billion, which will strain their ability to pay Messi, or anyone, at pre-pandemic levels.

[ESPN]

About Sean Keeley

A graduate of Syracuse University, Sean Keeley is the creator of the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and author of 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse related things for SB Nation, Curbed, Neighborhoods.com, and many other outlets. He currently lives in Chicago.