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Messi will get another chance to break his tournament duck next year when the Copa America takes place in Argentina. Photo: PTI

'Copa high' Messi decides to stay with Barcelona; takes 50% pay cut

After much speculation, Argentine star footballer Lionel Messi has decided to sign a fresh, but compromised, 5-year contract with Barcelona, which puts a full stop on talks of the 34-year-old leaving Camp Nou after he became a free agent on July 1.

The Barcelona FC is also in talks over swapping Antoine Griezmann for Atlético Madrid’s Saúl Ñíguez, reports The Guardian.

Messi’s five-year deal includes a 50 per cent wage cut. The deal is unique because it is for the first time that a sportsperson of Messi’s stature, who is a free agent, and also a favorite to win the yearly best player award, has agreed for such a massive pay cut. The club will make a formal announcement in the coming weeks.

Barcelona FC has been in financial doldrums ever since the pandemic began. Luis Mazariegos, a Barca fan, blogged to say, “A lot of Barca players earn monster wages and do not earn their keep. The likes of Miralem Pjanić, Samuel Umtiti, and Philippe Coutinho are earning like superstars but barely play.”

Rumors were rife about a two-year deal, but Messi is believed to have stuck down the idea and agreed on a significant pay cut instead. By the time Messi completes the five-year contract he will be 39 years old. There is a possibility that he may not last that long, so Joan Laporta is believed to have worked out a deal to that end as well.

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Last summer, Messi tried to quit his La Liga club for 16 years due to differences with former president Josep Bartomeu, but resisted the move because he did not wish to drag Barcelona FC through the courts.

The Argentine striker made 550 million euros (468 million pounds/$650m) as part of his last five-year contract with Barcelona.

Also read: Birthday boy Messi set to stay longer with Barcelona

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were interested in signing in Messi once his contract with Barcelona ended on June 30. Messi had also expressed his desire to play in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Meanwhile, Griezmann- Saúl swap on cards

While Messi decides to stay back, his attacking partner in Barca, Antoine Griezmann, could move to Atlético in exchange for 26-year-old midfielder Saúl Ñíguez.

It seems both Griezmann and Saúl are ready for the swap, provided the negotiations see through. The Guardian reported that Barcelona thinks Griezmann’s value is greater than Saúl’s and expect some money in return. Meanwhile, Liverpool and Chelsea are eyeing keen on getting Saúl on board if the Barca deal fails.

Last Sunday, Messi helped Argentina win the Copa América trophy in Brazil. It is his first international trophy for Argentina team.

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