Messi faces Barcelona wages cut if he stays, warns presidential candidate

By Sports Desk November 06, 2020

Barcelona cannot afford to keep Lionel Messi at Camp Nou on his current salary, presidential candidate Toni Freixa has admitted.

Messi's contract is due to expire next year and the club's all-time record goalscorer and arguably greatest ever player may need some persuasion to stay beyond that.

Freixa has indicated it will not be through a pay rise or even a freeze on his wages that Barcelona invite Messi to extend his time at the club.

But Freixa is hopeful the 33-year-old Argentinian can be convinced to remain, despite Messi having pushed for the chance to leave in the close season.

Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu warned before his departure that the club would face a drastic drop in revenue of around €300million because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to El Curubito, Freixa underlined the financial problems facing Barcelona.

Freixa said: "We will speak calmly with Leo, face to face with the best for Barca as the objective.

"With him, as with all the players who have to renew or are signed, we will make an offer that of course will not be able to match the conditions that he has had up to now."

Messi is Barcelona's best-paid player, with wide-ranging estimates abounding about his exact annual salary which is assumed to run deep into eight figures. It may be that he is invited to defer part of his pay packet to be paid at a later date.

"It is obvious and we cannot deceive members that the proposal which we will offer [to Messi] will not be the same as he has had so far, because our income has fallen significantly and another formula will have to be found," Freixa said.

"You don't have to win over Messi or convince him with other things, you have to look him in the eye and talk, to know what each other wants, what he wants and what Barca wants. We think Messi still has a lot of football in him."

A hint of what Messi might expect came when Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong, Clement Lenglet and Marc-Andre ter Stegen last month signed contract extensions with Barcelona.

Those deals followed weeks of negotiations and included "temporary salary adjustments" in response to difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pique suggested the wages being sacrificed now will be repaid in future, once the club is in a better financial state.

Another presidential candidate Pere Riera recently said he "wouldn't pull out all the stops" to keep Messi at Camp Nou, but that he believed the forward wished to stay.

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    - Eric Garcia looks set to finish the season with Manchester City. Marca reports Barcelona cannot afford a transfer fee for the defender and the delay of the LaLiga club's presidential elections, now scheduled for March 7, mean Garcia will have to wait for a move.

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    - Eder Militao is facing an uncertain future at Real Madrid. Goal reports Bayern Munich have joined the list of clubs who have asked about the defender, with Juventus, Tottenham and Borussia Dortmund also reportedly interested in Militao, who has played just three times this season.

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  • Guardiola: Man City achievements not possible without Sterling Guardiola: Man City achievements not possible without Sterling

    Kevin De Bruyne's gesture during the closing stages of Manchester City's Premier League game against Brighton and Hove Albion was one of selflessness towards a team-mate and friend, but also one that backfired.

    De Bruyne ceded his penalty-taking duties after drawing a foul from Albion goalkeeper Robert Sanchez in stoppage time at a sodden Etihad Stadium, giving Raheem Sterling the chance to step up.

    Unfortunately, the England international ballooned his attempt into the deserted North Stand, leaving Pep Guardiola's side with a few more needlessly nervy minutes to see out a 1-0 win.

    A key contributor as City racked up six major trophies in the three previous campaigns under Guardiola, Sterling is yet to fully hit his stride this time around, even as his colleagues in sky blue have moved their collective level through the gears over recent weeks to sit menacingly poised in the Premier League title race.

    The Brighton miss means he has scored only three goals in his past 18 appearances in all competitions, a run of four in three either side of the October international break proving to be something of a false dawn.

    "He’s an incredibly important player for us," Guardiola said of Sterling ahead of Sunday's meeting with Crystal Palace, which will come as the immediate dust settles on the top-two clash between Manchester United and Liverpool at Anfield.

    "Everything we have done in the past, without him would not have been possible."

    True as that might be, Sterling relocating his past form would certainly benefit City in an unpredictable season of ample possibilities.

    In 2019-20, Sterling enjoyed the most prolific season of his career, scoring 20 goals in the Premier League and 31 overall.

    His Premier League haul outperformed an xG of 17.3, coming from 97 shots, although he was even more clinical in those terms the last time City won the Premier League in 2018-19.

    In that year of a domestic treble, within 25 in all competitions, Sterling's 17 top-flight goals from 77 attempts had an xG value of 13.7.

    This season, he has four Premier League goals and an xG of 3.6. His 29 shots include five unsuccessful efforts from inside the six-yard box.

    Close-range misses have become an unwelcome feature in Sterling's game, most gallingly when he blazed over with the goal at his mercy during City's chastening Champions League quarter-final defeat to Lyon in August.

    Before last season, the 26-year-old had never dipped below a 50 per cent conversion rate on what Opta rank as "big chances".  He was most efficient in this regard when he scored 18 of 31 (58 per cent) in 2018-19.

    That percentage dropped to 39.6 in 2019-20, as he scored 23 big chances and spurned 35. This term, five scored and 13 missed means a further drop to 27.8 per cent within this smaller sample size.

    Sterling's overall shot conversion of 14.3 per cent is its lowest since 11.7 per cent in Guardiola's first trophy-less season at City in 2016-17.

    So, in a talent stacked squad, should he be fearing for his place? In short, no.

    "He will score goals, he will make assists and he wants to help in all departments," Guardiola insisted.

    "Normally wingers are not able do that but he can help us. I'm more than happy to have him here with us."

    A player holding himself to the high standards Sterling does is unlikely to take any comfort in the old head-tousling adage of "he was there to miss 'em", but there is something to be said for his relentless desire to contribute to the cause, irrespective of where his individual form resides.

    Guardiola certainly views him as indispensable. Sterling has played 24 games and completed 1,864 minutes this season, second only to Premier League ever-present Rodri in the City squad.

    He has had more shots on target (27) and attempted (88) and completed (41) more dribbles than any other City player. In terms of overall shots (38) and assists (six) he is only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne.

    Sterling has created 30 chances for others and, despite his struggles in front of goal, remains joint-second in the squad's goalscoring charts on seven alongside Ferran Torres, one shy of midweek matchwinner Phil Foden.

    The former Liverpool youngster's previous goal, when he scored decisively at Southampton in December, made him the first player to reach 150 goal involvements for Guardiola's City.

    And, although the Brighton game ended in personal disappointment, his introduction from the bench was his 220th appearance under Guardiola. No player has been selected more frequently by the Catalan tactician in his celebrated career, with a certain Lionel Messi second on that list.

    It is that overall big picture of absolute trust and an unquenchable thirst to contribute to the wider cause that means Sterling will remain one of Guardiola's most trusted performers, even if his dry spell goes on a little longer.

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