Lionel Messi has rejected a new contract at Barcelona, reports Marca, as he intends to see out the remainder of his deal, which expires in the summer of 2018.
The Madrid-based Spanish daily has sent shockwaves today by claiming that five-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi has opted against penning a fresh deal with Barcelona.
The Argentina international has around a year and a half left on his current contract, and it has emerged that in July the 29-year-old informed the Catalan club of his intention not to renew.
This does not necessarily mean that he wants to leave the Camp Nou, but the report in Spain has stated that his recent dispute with the tax authorities is a reason behind delaying contract talks.
Messi was hit with a 21-month prison sentence in July after being found guilty of tax evasion following allegations that he and his father Jorge Messi hid £3.1m in earnings.
The footballer will not spend any time in jail, but rumours suggest that the legal issues have caused him to resist committing his future to the Spanish giants.
It is probably a long shot, despite today’s reports, mainly because there are very few teams who could afford him.
The prolific attacker, widely regarded as the best footballer in the world, is believed to be earning upwards of £300,000-per-week, and while Messi reportedly has intentions of winding down his contract, Barcelona will in no way want the current €250m release clause to be wasted.
In terms of financial clout, only Manchester City and Manchester United are going to be able to compete in a bidding war in the Premier League should one come about.
Messi already has ties to City given that he played under their manager Pep Guardiola for four years at the Camp Nou, winning 14 trophies in the process.
Guardiola himself suggested that Messi may want to test himself on English shores. In October, he told reporters: “Eventually, one day, the kid may decide to play elsewhere. Maybe because he wants his sons to learn English, or to live a new experience, like it has happened to many of us in the past. That is a possibility.”
Considering that the forward has scored 469 goals in 545 games in all competitions for Barcelona, there’s not many clubs that wouldn’t be interested, but there would only be a few that could realistically sign him.
As well as the Manchester clubs mentioned, Paris Saint-Germain could throw their hat in the ring should Messi opt out of Barcelona, while the wealthy pockets of clubs in China and Abu Dhabi could also ponder a move.
Rest assured, though, that Barcelona will do everything in their power to keep hold of their talisman.