Lionel Messi to leave Barcelona "because of financial and structural obstacles"

5 August 2021, 19:26 | Updated: 5 August 2021, 19:43

Lionel Messi will leave FC Barcelona
Lionel Messi will leave FC Barcelona. Picture: D .Nakashima/AFLO/Alamy Live News

By Asher McShane

Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona after "financial and structural obstacles" prevented him from signing a new deal, the LaLiga club has announced.

Barcelona insisted both the club and Messi were willing to extend his stay, but claim LaLiga regulations have made that impossible.

Messi has been a free agent since July 1 when his contract expired.

A statement on the Catalan giants' official website said: "Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations).

"As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona."

The statement continued: "Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

"FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."

Arguably the greatest footballer ever to have played the game, he scored 672 goals in 778 appearances with the club since his debut in 2004. He is set to become the most in-demand player in world football.

His goal tally for Barca is the most ever by a player for one club, after he passed Pele's record of 643 for Santos last season.

He is comfortably LaLiga's record goalscorer with 474 and is also second all-time in the Champions League, with 120 to his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo's 134.

Last season's 30 goals won him an eighth Pichichi trophy, awarded to LaLiga's top scorer, while he has led the Champions League goal charts six times including 2014-15 when he shared the honour with Ronaldo and Neymar.

Messi won 34 major trophies with Barca, when including domestic and European super cups and the Club World Cup.

Messi has also won the Ballon d'Or, awarded to the world's best player, on six occasions including four in succession from 2009.

International honours with Argentina however had largely eluded him for most of his career, save for an Olympic gold medal from 2008, until he led his side to Copa America glory last month.

Messi scored 48 hat-tricks for Barca, including 36 in LaLiga, with another six for Argentina taking him through the half-century mark for his career as a whole.