Barcelona were desperate to retain Lionel Messi and the Argentine wanted to stay at the Camp Nou, as his tears at a farewell press conference on Sunday attested.
So why are you leaving the only club you have represented in your 17-year professional career?
League salary cap
Barcelona says it had no choice but to ditch the 34-year-old, in a free transfer with his contract terminated in June, as they fight to reduce a 1.2 billion euro ($ 1.4 billion) mountain of debt.
Messi had agreed to take a 50 percent pay cut, and studies suggested that his business value to the club far exceeded the astronomical cost of his salary.
However, those debts and the need to comply with a strict salary cap in the Spanish league have forced Messi to leave.
The Catalans squandered the 222 million euros they received from PSG in 2017 for Neymar by committing fees of more than 100 million euros each on players like Philippe Coutinho, Antoine Griezmann and Ousname Dembele.
President Joan Laporta admitted that last season’s losses totaled almost 500 million euros and insisted that he could not “mortgage” the future of the club for any player, including Messi.
Clubs in Spain’s two main divisions suffered a loss of earnings totaling 2,013 billion euros ($ 2.43 billion) for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
La Liga rules say that no Spanish club can exceed the salary limit that the league itself has established: in the case of Barça, last season it was 348 million euros, compared to 671.4 million euros for the season previous.
Barça exceeded that reduced limit last season and now La Liga will not tolerate any more lapses.
Laporta admitted that Barça’s wage bill with Messi would be equivalent to 110 percent of income. Even with him it would have been too high, at an unsustainable 95 percent.
No new signings allowed, including Messi
Some have asked why Messi, if he loved the club so much, couldn’t stay and play for free.
Ignoring the fact that it is ridiculous to think that the best player in the world could or should agree to that, it would have been impossible.
Without being in line with the salary cap rules, Barcelona cannot register new signings. Since Messi’s previous contract expired in June, he would have been considered a new signing.
That also raises questions about the summer signings that the club had already announced, with Memphis Depay, Sergio Agüero and Eric García already recruited in free transfers and Emerson Royal arriving from Real Betis.
Some may wonder why La Liga couldn’t be more flexible, given the revenue Messi generates while being a huge global draw for Spanish soccer.
UEFA has already relaxed its own financial fair play rules to help clubs affected by the pandemic, but the Spanish league is holding firm.
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