Lionel Messi’s contract, Barcelona’s debt and the 8 players on the market in fire sale

Barcelona are close to agreeing a new contract with their superstar forward Lionel Messi but it is set to come at a significant financial cost.

Messi celebrated his 34th birthday on Thursday and is out of contract at the Camp Nou next week although the club are confident on a new agreement.

Such a financial commitment to the world’s best paid player will bring complications to the Catalan giants, who will need to shift a significant amount of money from their wage bill this summer.

Having already secured the signing of free agents Memphis Depay, Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia, alongside taking up their purchase option for Real Betis defender Emerson Royal, has pushed the club’s outgoings to their limits.

With a long-term debt standing at a reported €1.1billion, it has now been reported by Catalan radio station RAC1 that the club estimates they will have to chalk off a remarkable €200million from their annual wage budget in order to accommodate Messi’s new deal.

Last season, Barcelona ’s salary cap – as imposed by La Liga based on club earnings and financial status – stood at €382.7million – a significant drop of €288million from the previous year.

That was accommodated by wage cuts and several big earners leaving the Camp Nou including Luis Suarez, Arturo Vidal and Ivan Rakitic.

Their outgoings are likely to have increased due to the four first-team squad arrivals this summer and whilst their salary cuts this time round will not be quite as high as last year, it is a much bigger percentage of their overall budget and will be even tougher to eradicate.

There is no getting around it: the club will have to sell multiple high earning players and others who they would ideally retain had they not been in such pressing economic concern.

Which players are on the market this summer?

Ousmane Dembele

The French forward has entered the final 12 months of his contract and is one of the higher earners in the dressing room.

The arrivals of Memphis Depay and Sergio Aguero are likely to limit his first-team opportunities and theoretically, the club would have had little hesitation in selling the gifted forward this summer should a suitable offer arrive.

A hugely talented if slightly erratic player, Dembele had endured three seasons of injury hell at the club but had somewhat of a return to form and fitness last year – making 44 appearances across all competitions.

Disaster struck this summer with Dembele being injured during Euro 2020 with France and requiring surgery – ruling him out until October.

The Frenchman was very much in the club’s plans to move on this summer as one of its most marketable players who was not integral to the first team, but this appears to no longer be an option.

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann may be sold by Barcelona this summer© REUTERS Antoine Griezmann may be sold by Barcelona this summer

Another of the Blaugrana’s highest earning players remains one of their most talented and important players, but his salary may see him moved on.

The signing of Memphis has provided the club with a ready-made replacement for Griezmann, who joined from Atletico Madrid in a €120million deal two years ago.

Despite scoring 35 goals across two seasons, Griezmann has not hit top form this season and is now aged 30 – this summer could be the last chance for a big move.

As with Dembele and several others, finding a club who can match or accommodate his wages is a huge dilemma.

Philippe Coutinho

Unlike Dembele and Griezmann, Philippe Coutinho is one player who Barcelona would happily sell even without their pressing financial problems.

The club’s record signing does not have prominence in the first-team and after a season spent on loan at Bayern Munich, a fine but unspectacular first half to the campaign led to injuries which mean he has not featured in 2021.

The former Liverpool playmaker simply does not fit into the Blaugrana’s starting line-up and is another big earner who is proving a drain on resources.

The Brazilian is a highly talented player and would almost certainly play – at the very least – a squad role in any prominent European club, but the finances involve make any move incredibly difficult and a big risk for any buying club.

Samuel Umtiti

Samuel Umtiti with a football ball: Samuel Umtiti has suffered with knee injuries in recent years© Getty Images Samuel Umtiti has suffered with knee injuries in recent years

Just as with Coutinho, a loss in form and fitness has led to France international Samuel Umtiti being surplus to requirements.

In his early Barcelona days, he was a colossus for club and country but a series of knee issues, loss of his initial physique and no longer being a regular have impacted his progress.

Another big earner with a dubious recent fitness record, shifting the central defender – with central defender Garcia already signed this summer – is a priority but a huge challenge.

Sergi Roberto

One of the four captains at Barcelona, the versatile midfielder has spent the entirety of his professional career at the Camp Nou.

The club had been weighing up offering the player – out of contract in 2022 – a new deal but their financial situation makes him available.

The 29-year-old has regularly been played at right-back for the Blaugrana but is naturally a central midfielder.

Has been linked with a move to Manchester City and to be reunited with Pep Guardiola – who afforded him his senior debut – but would unlikely to be a first-team starter.

Miralem Pjanic

a hand holding a football ball: Miralem Pjanic has made little impact during his debut season at Barcelona following a switch from Juventus© Getty Images Miralem Pjanic has made little impact during his debut season at Barcelona following a switch from Juventus

Signed from Juventus a year ago in a de facto swap deal for Arthur Melo, the Bosnian has made no impact at the Camp Nou and will almost certainly be transferred this summer.

A return to Turin is the most likely option and he is another player who the club will certainly take a huge financial hit upon.

Marc-Andre Ter Stegen

Marc-Andre ter Stegen wearing a football uniform: Ter Stegen's form has tailed off slightly in recent months© SIPA USA/PA Images Ter Stegen’s form has tailed off slightly in recent months

The German shot-stopper is unquestionably one of the best goalkeepers in world football, although he has suffered a slight dip in form over the past 18 months.

Ter Stegen would in normal circumstances be unthinkable of selling, but his notable wage and the fact he would command a sizable transfer fee means that bids are likely to be, regretfully, under consideration.

If a club is looking to sign a top-class goalkeeper, this summer is likely to present a rare opportunity to do so.

Ilaix Moriba

This hugely exciting 18-year-old midfielder broke into the Barcelona first-team this season, scoring once and providing two assists within his first 100 minutes of La Liga football.

But he is out of contract in 2022 and despite his youthful age, his wages are significant and negotiating a new deal – while the club would be keen to secure it – may prove to be a time-consuming and expensive process.

A player who will, like Ter Stegen, command a huge transfer fee – this central midfielder is being monitored by a number of top European clubs and a move could materialise.

Who else will go?

Striker Martin Braithwaite, back-up goalkeeper Neto, wing-back Junior Firpo and forward Francisco Trincao are all on relatively low wages but are on the peripheries of the squad.

All four are likely to be moved on this summer, while American forward Konrad de la Fuente – who has impressed with the B team – is closing in on a move to Marseille.

La Masia midfield graduates Riqui Puig and Carles Alena – who has previously been on loan at both Real Betis and Getafe – are likely to be loaned out in La Liga once more.


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