Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona FC this summer after spending his whole career at the club due to “financial and structural obstacles”.
In a statement this evening, the Catalan club confirmed that the Argentine striker, its all-time top scorer, would leave, despite recently agreeing a new contract.
“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 financial and structural obstacles (Spanish La Liga regulations),” Barca said in a statement.
“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.
“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.”
His destination will now be the subject of fierce scrutiny. In the past, Messi has been linked with moves to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City, where he would rejoin his old manager Pep Guardiola.
He has also expressed a desire to play in the US’ Major League Soccer (MLS) in the past.
Messi’s departure will spell the end of an era for the club. During his time at Barcelona, he has won La Liga 10 times, four Champions Leagues, and myriad other team and personal honours.
He first joined La Masia, the Barcelona academy, at the age of 13, and made his competitive debut aged 17. He leaves the club with with 672 goals in 778 games in all competitions.
Last August he made a formal request to leave the club but after a change of president elected to stay.
The departure will come as a particular shock given reports that he had signed a new five-year deal with Barcelona in the last month.
The new deal, which would have seen the diminutive playmaker’s wages reduced, was dependent on the club reducing the rest of its wage bill.
It was reported that Barcelona would have had to reduce its bill by €200 (£172m) in order to comply with La Liga’s financial fair play rules.