Lionel Messi, the superstar striker with FC Barcelona, will earn more than 555 million euros ($674 million) from his current contract with the top Spanish soccer team, newspaper El Mundo reported, citing a copy of the contract.
El Mundo, which published a redacted version of the document on its website, said the six-time winner of the sport’s top honor — the Ballon d’Or — had the most lucrative contract in sports history. The compensation includes salary, marketing rights and a series of other bonuses and incentives, the paper said.
The four-year deal runs through the end of the current season. Messi spent much of the off-season agitating to be released from his contract before ultimately continuing to play what is likely his last season with Barcelona.
Barcelona said in a press release that it played no role in leaking the contract to El Mundo and said it planned to take legal action against the newspaper.
“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,” the statement said.
Barcelona, one of the most successful clubs in European soccer history, has seen its finances particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Debt doubled to 488 million euros and the club reported a decline in revenue of more than 200 million euros in 2020 as fans have been barred from attending matches.
The club has been pitching investors on buying a piece of the team’s off-the-field businesses in an effort to stem losses. In an investment teaser sent to potential investors and seen by Bloomberg, the club is proposing carving out its digital assets, worldwide football academies, sports knowledge group and merchandising businesses into a new subsidiary. The team would sell 30% to 49% of the interest in the new entity to outside investors, a first for a club that is wholly owned by its members and who would have to approve any such deal. Barcelona declined to comment about the prospective deal.