Barcelona can afford Lionel Messi’s new contract despite the club’s wage bill being above a recommended limit, according to president Josep Maria Bartomeu.
The Argentina star at last ended speculation over his future by signing a new four-year deal with the Catalans this week.
The 30-year-old will reportedly earn close to €565,000 a week until June 2021, making him the highest-paid player in European football and behind only compatriots Carlos Tevez and Ezequiel Lavezzi on the global stage.
A delay in negotiating Messi’s new deal prompted speculation Barca were struggling to free up funds to give him the wages he wanted, while a protracted legal case with Spanish tax authorities led to rumours he could leave Spain.
However, Bartomeu insists Messi always wanted to stay at Camp Nou and has denied suggestions his salary could put them in jeopardy with UEFA’s Financial Fair Play regulations.
“It started several months ago when I told his father, Jorge, that we had to sit down,” he told Mundo Deportivo. “Everyone knows Leo had a bad summer last year with the tax problem he suffered. We let some months pass so that the timing was balanced and then I told Jorge that we had to start talking about the renewal, and he told me to talk to his son.
“I talked to Leo and asked how he was, because of what had gone on. I told him we had to talk about the future. He replied: ‘I want to stay here. Talk to my dad.’ And that’s it.
“We can’t reveal how much Messi costs the club but he’s the best player in the world and he costs what the best player in the world and the history of football should. Nobody brings to their club what Leo Messi brings.
“The LFP and UEFA make recommendations but nobody sets a salary cap. We are above what is recommended but the important thing is to be sustainable. We can afford it.”
Bartomeu also rubbished claims that Messi has made demands over Barca’s transfer policy before next season.
“Messi has not asked for any specific signings. Messi and his team-mates talk about players when they meet them, but the one here who watches players and who signs them is [sporting director] Robert Fernandez,” he said.
“Ronaldinho brought the smile and the magic, [Andres] Iniesta the balance and Leo the art and the genius. Ronnie started this change but the one who changed the tone of Barca is Messi. This is the age of Messi.
“With Leo, the concept that the world has had of Barca has changed. Leo would be the mother of all Barca icons, shining on them all.”
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