Barcelona’s negotiations with Lionel Messi are over and the striker is considering other offers, the club’s president Joan Laporta said on Friday.
Laporta said in a press conference he was not prepared “to put the club at risk” by renewing Messi’s contract, with Barca facing huge financial problems ahead of the start of La Liga.
“Yesterday we realised it was over. I had the last conversation with Leo’s father,” said Laporta.
“I do not want to give false hope. The player has other offers and there is a time limit because La Liga starts soon and he needs time to assess his other options.”
Paris Saint-Germain are expected to lead the chase for Messi but Manchester City, who attempted to sign the Argentinian last year, could also join the bidding. “It’s logical he will have some big offers,” said Laporta.
Messi reached an agreement with Barcelona to sign a five-year contract with the trade-off that he earns 50 per cent less per year.
“We could not accommodate Messi’s contract,” said Laporta, who was re-elected as club president in March.
“The situation we have inherited is abominable and the sports salary bill represents 110 per cent of the club’s income. We have no margin for salaries.
Barcelona have total debts of almost 1.2 billion euros, with more than half of that needing to be repaid in the short-term.
Laporta said they have found the club’s losses for the season just ended to be almost 500 million euros, more than double what they expected.
“We were not prepared to put the club at risk in this way. I am not willing to mortgage the club for anyone. We have an institution that is above everyone, even the best player in the world.”
Messi tried to leave Barcelona for free last year but was forced to stay after the club told him an exit clause in his contract had expired.
The 34-year-old set aside his disappointment under coach Ronald Koeman, finishing last season as La Liga’s top scorer and scoring 38 goals in 47 games in all competitions.
His form, and Laporta’s re-election as president, changed the dynamic and the expectation was Messi would sign a new deal this summer.
But Messi’s contract expired and as the new La Liga season approached, doubts grew, culminating in Barcelona releasing a statement on Thursday confirming Messi’s departure.
Laporta said he felt “sadness and disappointment” but that he “did everything possible” to keep Messi, who joined Barcelona aged 13 and went on to score 672 goals in 778 appearances for the club.
Messi won LaLiga 10 times and the Champions League four times. He is also a six-time winner of the Ballon d’Or and widely considered to be the greatest player of all time.