BARCELONA – Barcelona said on Sunday they will take legal action against Spanish newspaper El Mundo for publishing Lionel Messi's contract with the club.
El Mundo published full details of the deal Messi penned with Barca in 2017 until June 2021.
The report said the contract, which was previously described by French newspaper L'Equipe as the most lucrative in football, had contributed to the club's recent financial troubles, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Barca's last accounts showed their net debt had doubled to €488 million ($592.24 million), while the club's interim president Carles Tusquets said recently they had been forced to delay payments to players.
Barcelona denied any responsibility for the publication of the contract in a statement, adding they regretted its release as it was a "private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties".
The statement added: "FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history."
Messi, who joined Barca in 2000 aged 13 and made his debut in 2004, is the club's all-time scorer with 650 goals and has also provided 280 assists in 755 appearances for the Catalans.
He is also their captain and most decorated player with 10 La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues plus six Copa del Rey triumphs.
The Argentine tried to leave Barca last August via a release clause in his contract but eventually decided to stay in order to avoid a court case with the club.
He can move to any club for free from June but has not ruled out staying at Barca, saying in a December interview that he will make his decision at the end of the season.
Meanwhile, CBS soccer reported that the contract includes the fact that the Argentine winger earns a fixed total of €138 million per season, which increases based on certain variables - namely statistical targets and club accomplishments. He was also given €115,225,000 as a "renewal fee" for accepting the contract, and an additional €77,929,955 as a loyalty bonus.
El Mundo today, what a bomb. Leo Messi’s contract with Barcelona revealed on front page 🔴![CDATA]>👇![CDATA]>🏻 @elmundoes— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) January 31, 2021
- €555,237,619 contract [4 years].
- €138m per season fixed + variables.
- €115,225,000 as ‘renewal fee’ just for accepting the contract.
- €77,929,955 loyalty bonus. pic.twitter.com/FK3I34hJta