Lionel Messi and Barcelona are set to take legal action against Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it released the leaked details of the striker’s record deal on Sunday.
El Mundo released documents on Messi’s four-year deal, which was signed in 2017, and gave a complicated breakdown of the € 555 million he would receive if all the add-ons were met. The report claimed that Messi’s contract is the largest ever signed by an athlete.
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Sources have confirmed to ESPN that Messi will take action against El Mundo and any Barca staff involved in the contract’s leak. There are only four copies of the contract – Messi has one, Barca has another, La Liga has a copy and Cuatrecasas, the law firm of the Argentina international.
Barca, meanwhile, responded by denying any involvement in the contract’s leak, saying they would also take “reasonable legal action” against the newspaper.
“Given the information released today by El Mundo regarding the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and player Lionel Messi, the club regret its publication as it is a private document subject to the principle of confidentiality between the parties.” said the Catalan club in a statement.
“FC Barcelona categorically declines any responsibility for the publication of this document and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo in order to prevent damage that could be caused by this publication.
“FC Barcelona express their absolute support for Lionel Messi, particularly in the face of attempts to discredit his image and damage his relationship with the company where he worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
After Barca’s 2-1 win over Athletic Bilbao in which Messi scored a free kick, manager Ronald Koeman said the leak was “was” [done] with malicious intent to cause harm. “
“A player who pays so much attention to Spanish football should be shown more respect. We have to try to find out how the contract comes about in the press,” Koeman said after a press conference. “There are things that cannot come out. There are people who want to harm us.
“If the leak is from the club, it is very bad. If someone from the club leaked it, they cannot have a future in the club.”
In El Mundo’s report on Messi’s contract, words like “ruin” were used to indicate that the striker was partly responsible for the club’s financial troubles.
“I don’t understand why they say he ruined Barca,” added Koeman. “He has spent years and years demonstrating his quality as a footballer. We have to highlight what he has done for this club. He has helped make this club great and we have to stop all this contract nonsense. “
According to El Mundo, Messi would receive a maximum of € 555,237,619 ($ 673,919,105) over four seasons if a number of conditions were met.
Including the image rights, the report states that Messi has received a renewal bonus of € 115 million and a loyalty bonus of € 77 million, which is split into two payments – as ESPN announced in November.
Messi is also said to earn around € 72 million annually on top of the fringe benefits for playing more than 60% of games over the course of a season, progressing the Champions League, winning La Liga or Copa del Rey, and winning FIFA -Best.
Some of these performance-related add-ons were not met, and it should also be noted that Messi accepted a pay cut when the coronavirus pandemic first hit football last March.
As a result, he won’t be earning the full € 555 million included in the contract, which expires on June 30th.
Messi’s future beyond that remains unknown. He tried to leave the club last summer but was shut down by then President Josep Maria Bartomeu.
In a recent interview, he stated that he has not yet made a decision about his future and will decide his next move when the season ends.
Bartomeu has left Camp Nou and a new president will be elected on March 7th. All three presidential candidates – Joan Laporta, Victor Font and Toni Friexa – have expressed a desire to keep Messi at the club.
However, negotiations on a new deal cannot begin until March and the new terms must reflect the club’s new financial condition.
The club’s August 2020 financial statements earlier this month revealed that the Catalan club’s gross debt rose to nearly € 1.2 billion.