FC Barcelona president Joan Laporta has broken his silence after failing to confirm Lionel Messi's contract extension until now. The Argentine is now a free agent for the first time in 7,504 days since becoming a Barcelona player when he was only 13 years old.
Barcelona fans are anxious and disappointed, after expecting the announcement of a contract extension to be made before Messi's previous contract expired on June 30. Many have been hounding Laporta for an explanation, especially considering the fact that he won the club presidential election based largely on the promise that he will convince Messi to stay.
Club members and fans from around the world are not happy, but Laporta has assured that the contract talks are still on the right track. "We want Leo to stay and he wants to stay," he said, in order to put the doubts to rest.
While talking to Onda Cero's "El Transistor," he explained that "everything's going the right way, and we're trying to find a solution that we're all happy with." Laporta then dropped a crucial detail, stating that "it's about 'fair play' now."
In other words, he has confirmed that the details of the contract that have not been ironed out have something to do with finances. "I'd love to say he is staying but I can't say that yet because we're still working through things," he added, as quoted by Marca.
Reports came out last week claiming that the club needs to free up around 200 million euros from their wage bill if Messi signs an extension. That's the only way that the club will be able to comply with La Liga Santander's Financial Fair Play regulations.
It is believed that Messi has been offered a pay cut, but even then, several other players need to be approached about accepting pay cuts moving forward. Furthermore, Barcelona has made little headway into offloading some of their players with higher salaries.
On the contrary, the club has already signed four players, albeit most on free transfers. Newcomers Sergio Aguero, Emerson Royal, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia are expected to inflate the wage bill even further. Barcelona now has to scramble for a way to offload their fringe players and even some high profile ones in order to lighten the load. It remains to be seen how they will be able to achieve their goal without compromising the quality of their squad.