Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona waves to the crowd prior to the Joan Gamper Trophy match between FC Barcelona and Arsenal at Nou Camp on August 04, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.
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Soccer superstar Lionel Messi will leave FC Barcelona after discussions for a new contract failed due to “financial and structural obstacles” related to Spanish league spending rules, the team announced Thursday.
FC Barcelona said the club and Messi had agreed to the terms of a contract, and intended to sign the deal Thursday. But that deal was stymied because of La Liga regulations limiting how much a club can spend compared to its revenue.
Messi, 34, first was signed as a 13-year-old through FC Barcelona’s youth program, La Masia. He had played for the top team since 2004, and is currently captain of his native Argentina’s national team.
During his tenure in Barcelona, he won the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the world’s best soccer player, a record six times, last garnering that accolade in 2019.
Messi’s most recent contract, signed in 2017, is valued at $675 million.
“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 Spanish La Liga regulation on players’ registration,” the club said Thursday.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona,” the club said.
“Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.”
The club added: “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.”
Last month, Messi reportedly reached a verbal agreement to a five-year contract extension at Barcelona, with new terms that include a salary reduction by 50%.
He officially became a free agent on July 1 after he failed to agree on terms over a contract renewal before his previous contract ended on June 30.
Messi is one of the most prolific goal scorers in history.
According to soccer statistics site FBRef.com, he holds the all-time record of scoring 474 goals in La Liga matches.
He has also notched 120 European Champions League goals, second only to his former Real Madrid rival Cristiano Ronaldo.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect Lionel Messi is 34 years old.