Messi to leave Barca as contract talks collapse

By Sports Desk August 05, 2021

Lionel Messi will not return to Barcelona due to "economic and structural obstacles", the club announced on Thursday.

The Blaugrana great's contract at Camp Nou expired at the end of last season, but he was expected to commit to a new deal ahead of the coming campaign.

Messi reportedly agreed a 50 per cent reduction in wages, with news of the contract anticipated this week ahead of Sunday's Joan Gamper Trophy match against Juventus.

But Barca's dire financial situation means they are unable to register new players due to LaLiga's salary restrictions.

Messi, like new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal, had been left in limbo.

And following widespread reports in the Spanish media, Barca confirmed Messi could not formalise the agreement, meaning he "will not continue to be linked to FC Barcelona".

A statement read: "Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it will not be possible to formalise it due to economic and structural obstacles (Spanish LaLiga regulations)."

"Given this situation, Lionel Messi will not continue to be linked to FC Barcelona.

"Both sides deeply regret that the wishes of both the player and the club cannot ultimately be fulfilled.

"Barca would like to thank the player most sincerely for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the institution and wishes him the best in his personal and professional life."

Messi is widely acknowledged as Barca's greatest ever player, having scored 672 goals and provided 265 assists in 778 appearances.

He has been part of four triumphant Champions League teams, also winning LaLiga on 10 occasions.

The 34-year-old finally ended his wait for a first international honour with Argentina at this year's Copa America, but his future is now in serious doubt.

Messi was linked with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain when he first pursued a Camp Nou exit last year.

But City appear focused on Jack Grealish and Harry Kane, while PSG have already spent heavily as well as agreeing a new contract with Neymar and opening talks with Kylian Mbappe.

The expectation Messi would remain at Barca leaves no obvious next destination in the immediate aftermath of a shock announcement.

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    The winger, who underwent three operations, only returned to training in August.

    Sunday's game at Camp Nou will offer Fati the chance to make his first competitive appearance since inheriting the number 10 shirt from Lionel Messi, who left the club at the end of his contract before signing for Paris Saint-Germain ahead of this season.

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    Borussia Dortmund are bracing for Erling Haaland's departure by plotting a move for Manchester United forward Anthony Martial, claims 90Min.

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    - Madrid midfielder Isco has held numerous rounds of negotiations with Serie A challengers Milan about a move to Italy, according to Todo Fichajes.

    Barca are considering a move for Porto's Colombia international forward Luis Diaz next off-season, claims El Nacional.

    - Diario AS says Theo Hernandez is ready to commit his long-term future to Milan amid interest from PSG and City.

  • Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar Vini, vidi, vici? Vinicius Junior emerging at last as Real Madrid's next superstar

    "I am not a magician," said Carlo Ancelotti. "Just a coach who has to give players the confidence they need to express their qualities."

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    NEW-MAR

    Signed amid much fanfare from Flamengo three years ago, it has taken Vinicius time to fully find his feet in the Spanish capital. Patience is notoriously thin on the ground where Madrid are concerned, but fans have been more willing than usual to play the long game with the Brazil international, who has already played 88 times in Spain's top flight, a tally bettered by just six compatriots in the club's history.

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    After the first six matches of 2020-21, Vinicius had two goals and zero assists, with three chances created for team-mates. Granted, he had spent 52 fewer minutes on the pitch in those six games than he has this season, but he has undeniably made better use of the time given to him of late.

    In the first six games of 2021-22, Vinicius' 17 shots have come amid a 2.64 expected goals (xG) total, but they account for 4.36 expected goals on target (xGOT), giving some indication as to the high quality of his attempts. (The xG metric assesses the quality of chances, and xGOT looks at the player's actual effort at goal.)

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    KYLIAN (IN THE NAME OF)

    A strong indicator of Vinicius' form, his willingness to stand up in matches and why those Neymar comparisons are a little closer to the mark than they once were, is the upturn in his impact when running with the ball.

    After six games in LaLiga last term, he had completed only five of 17 attempted take-ons. That success rate of 29.4 per cent was the lowest of any Madrid player to complete at least one dribble.

    This season, that success rate has jumped to 47.6 per cent, Vinicius having completed 20 of 42 attempted take-ons. These are identical figures to one Kylian Mbappe of Paris Saint-Germain – another Madrid transfer target.

    Not only that, but 42 attempted take-ons is the most by any player in LaLiga in 2021-22, while Vinicius also ranks highest for take-ons in the box (eight) and those ending with a shot (four), and joint-highest for drives into the penalty area (also four).

    HEARTBEAT

    Vinicius is also averaging 62 touches of the ball per 90 minutes, an increase from 57 at this stage of the season in 2020-21. It follows that he is more heavily involved in the action at the top end of the pitch: he has had 36 involvements in shot-ending sequences in LaLiga, a figure bettered only by Real Betis' Nabil Fekir (38) and Madrid's own Benzema (51). On average, his tally has jumped from just over three per game in 2020-21 to more than seven in 2021-22. And, of those sequences this season, 10 have ended in a goal – only Benzema (14) can do better.

    This is a player embracing responsibility, demanding the ball, and dazzling when he gets it: in short, he's showing all the best qualities of Neymar, Mbappe or anyone else Madrid may wish to buy, and offering fans everything they hoped for when he first arrived for €46million in 2018.

    Perhaps competition is bringing the best out of Vinicius: with Gareth Bale back at the Santiago Bernabeu (although presently injured), Eden Hazard showing more encouraging signs and Marco Asensio fully fit again, there is no shortage of options for the Benzema support act. Or maybe Ancelotti really does have the magic touch to keep Vinicius in vibrant form for a whole season, beyond the fleeting glimpses displayed under Zinedine Zidane.

    Whatever the reason, Vinicius has never looked so dangerous in a Madrid shirt. Worryingly for his opponents, there could be plenty more to come.

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