GENEVA – Any club in world soccer should want Lionel Messi in its lineup.
But only a select few could make a financial deal work for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner.
Messi is trying to force a move after 20 years with Barcelona, which wants to hold him to a contract that runs through June 2021.
The money in that contract is daunting: a reported 100 million euros ($118 million) annual salary package and release clause demanding a 700 million euros ($827 million) transfer fee.
The 33-year-old Argentina star wants out of the rebuilding project at Barca after a rare trophy-less season. He clearly lost respect for the club’s directors who look ready for a legal fight to enforce a transfer fee key to helping reinforce an aging team.
Messi believes he should be allowed to leave for nothing. A clause in his contract set a June 10 deadline for him to request a free transfer — intended to be after the season ended.
European soccer’s unforeseen shutdown during the pandemic pushed the season into August, and Messi believes he can still invoke the clause now.
Even if Messi leaves for free or Barcelona compromises on the transfer fee, the overall cost will test his new club’s compliance with UEFA’s financial fair play (FFP) rules.