Messi moves closer to signing new contract with Barcelona

In this Nov. 5, 2019 file photo, Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts during a Champions League Group F soccer match against Slavia Praha at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave the club after nearly two decades with the Spanish giants. The club has confirmed that the Argentina great has sent a note expressing his desire to leave. The announcement comes 11 days after Barcelona's humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals, one of the worst in the player's career and in the club's history. (AP Photo/Joan Monfort, File)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Lionel Messi and Barcelona are closer to signing a new deal that would keep the Argentina star at the Spanish club through the end of his playing career.

A person with knowledge of the negotiations between club and player told The Associated Press on Friday that Messi was prepared to accept Barcelona’s offer of a five-year contract at 50% of his previous salary. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the negotiations.

In his previous contract, signed in 2017, Messi earned a massive 138 million euros ($163 million) per season.

The person with knowledge of the negotiations did not indicate the other aspects of the contract still being worked out between the club and Messi’s father, Jorge Messi, who acts as his agent.

Barcelona as a club has officially said nothing publicly about the details of the negotiations with the soccer great.

The 34-year-old Messi joined Barcelona two decades ago at age 13. Last August he stunned Barcelona by announcing that he wanted out after the 2019-2020 season ended without a title and his relationship with then club president Josep Bartomeu deteriorated.

The return of Joan Laporta to the club’s presidency in March has been key in bringing Messi back into the fold. Laporta ran Barcelona when Messi had his breakout as a teenager.

A significantly lower salary for Messi is critical to keeping him at the financially troubled club following the losses sustained by the pandemic and some questionable management. Laporta admitted that a lower salary cap for Barcelona due to reduced revenues complicated his task to make all the pieces fit.

Messi’s previous contract with Barcelona expired on June 30, making many Barcelona fans nervous that he could be lured away to big spenders like Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City.

Even Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman acknowledged last week that he was concerned.

“Messi? When things don’t get resolved, you have to be worried,” Koeman said. “Laporta told me to remain calm because we are working hard so that he remains with us for years to come. I have complete faith in our president to work this out.”

The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is currently on vacation after leading Argentina to the Copa America title last weekend, ending a long wait for a major title for his nation.

Messi has enjoyed a glittering career at Barcelona. He has won 35 club titles in 17 seasons, including four Champions Leagues, and set club records for goals (672) and appearances (778).