Lionel Messi contract mystery – Barcelona have 120 days to avoid biggest crisis in decades

Barcelona have endured a problematic summer to say the least. The incredible loss of Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain has left Ernesto Valverde’s men in a state of disarray and in turn has led other key figures to consider their futures at the Nou Camp.

Barca icon Andres Iniesta is pondering whether he should leave Catalonia this summer, a scenario he never thought he would contemplate just a couple of years ago, while Lionel Messi’s new four-year contract, announced and seemingly agreed earlier this summer, has not yet been inked by the Argentine maestro.

Messi’s current contract with Barcelona expires next summer, and while a whopping €300m (£273.6m, $352m) move to Manchester City looks rather unlikely despite recent reports, the idea of the 30-year-old leaving for pastures new in the next 12 months is not as far-fetched as it perhaps should be.

With the wondrous attacker’s future not fully resolved, IBTimes UK analyses the uncertainty over Messi’s new deal and the role Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu has to play in yet another potentially calamitous situation for the Blaugrana.

Is Lionel Messi leaving Barcelona in four months? The ‘mystery’ concerning a new deal continues

Messi will not join Manchester City this summer, though Canal+ France reported that the Citizens were considering the option of paying a world-record fee of €300m to sign the Barcelona legend. It was another summer rumour debunked by sources coming from Pep Guardiola’s club, according to Diario Sport and Mundo Deportivo.

Though it is difficult to predict what can or cannot happen in the next two weeks, especially after PSG smashed the transfer record by signing Neymar for €222m, the statements attributed to Sheikh Mansour are simply false or, at least, have not been verified by anyone.

However, former Barcelona president Joan Laporta was spot on when he posted on Twitter: “If we want Leo Messi to continue happily in the club, we need to give Josep Bartomeu the sack immediately”. And therein lies the dilemma, because when it comes to the subject of the Argentinian maestro, the club announced a new deal last July, adding that “the agreement will be a reality in the coming weeks“.

Since then, the lack of news has been frightening for the Catalans. In fact, Cadena Serreported yesterday that “the doubts concerning Barca’s number 10’s new deal increase”. Valverde, Barca’s new manager, has not helped to dispel the doubts.

When asked whether he was worried by the fact that the five-time Ballon d’Or winner had not yet signed a new deal yet, he said: “I am not close to these negotiations, but I guess that if the new deal was announced…”.

Messi’s contract expires in 2018, meaning that he will be free to negotiate with any other club from next January, in just four months. If the club presided by Bartomeu are unable to complete the announced deal before this date, the Argentinian’s salary will surely reach a world record as the suitors to sign him will not have to pay any fee to his club.

If Neymar’s departure has turned into a “drama”, this could be a turning point in Barcelona’s history, as the club could lose €300m – Messi’s clause – in just four months. Either way, if he leaves, the impact for the club would be much higher, for obvious reasons.

Does this have something to do with Bartomeu?

While this tale reaches its climax, there is big controversy surrounding Bartomeu for many reasons. The president has been unable to avoid Neymar’s departure and the squad is sending signals of becoming less and less competitive every year. Valverde’s signings do not seem to have stimulated the club’s supporters, especially after Real Madrid won three Champions League titles in four years with one of the best squads in football history.

Bartomeu’s signings are subject to constant scrutiny after he failed to adequately replace legends such as Carles Puyol and Xavi Hernandez, among others, and authority is not among his most remarkable skills, otherwise it would not be possible for Gerard Pique to play the role of a president when it comes to complaining about referees, announcing Neymar’s continuity, etc.

Florentino Perez would never let a player question his policies at Real Madrid, whereas players such as Sergio Busquets said recently that “it is obvious that we need more signings” while at the same time criticising the board of directors, as one of its members, Pep Segura, blamed Pique for the defeat against Real Madrid in the first leg of the Supercup after the defender scored an own goal: “I don’t agree with him, it was bad luck and we did not lose for that reason. Pointing out a player is not the best way of expressing yourself, least of all from inside the club.”

Laporta still has good friends inside the dressing room, and maybe he was spot on when he posted on Twitter yesterday that Messi’s continuity might depend on the president’s future.

Whether this is closely related to this “mystery” or not will be soon revealed. Barcelona have 120 days to tie the Argentinian down to a new deal, otherwise they will have to face their biggest crisis in the last few decades, while Messi will immediately start an “auction effect” which could turn him into the best paid footballer in the history of the sport.