Lionel Messi no longer plays for FC Barcelona.
The La Liga club announced Thursday the superstar forward has left the club as a free agent. Messi and Barcelona had been expected to agree to a new contract this summer but were unable to do so because of the club’s ongoing financial plight and new regulations Spain’s La Liga set ahead of the 2021-22 season.
“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations),” Barcelona said in a statement.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.
“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”
Messi, 34, joined Barcelona as a youth player in 2003 and debuted for the club’s first team in 2003. He went on to become the greatest player in Barcelona history, scoring a club-record 672 goals in 778 games, winning 10 La Liga, four UEFA Champions League and seven Copa del Rey (Spanish Cup) titles. He also has won the Ballon d’Or a record six times.
Messi’s availability likely will pique the interest of clubs around the world. However, his salary demands almost certainly will narrow the list of realistic suitors to a select few, including Manchester City and PSG.