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 50 percent 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.
“The player will reduce his wage by 50 percent. Now it just remains for the lawyers to look over the agreement and give it the OK. Once that happens (his) continuation will be official,” said Madrid-based sports daily Marca which confirmed L’Esportiu’s initial story.
According to the latter, Messi, 34, will earn in the region of 20 million euros basic next season with the Catalan club, which he has led to ten league crowns as well as four Champions Leagues.
Since Joan Laporta took over as Barca president, the club has been trying to reduce its 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.
Another Barcelona sports paper Mundo Deportivo suggested the longer contract length was part of a quid pro quo taking into account a curtailed salary structure as Barcelona battles crippling debts.
Messi’s last contract, signed in 2017, was the most lucrative in world sport according to a January report in 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.
Messi, 34, won his first major international title with Argentina over the weekend when it beat rival 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 also topping the assists charts with five.