Barcelona will take legal action against the Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it published details of Lionel Messi’s current contract, which it says is worth up to 555 million euros ($674m) over four years.
The club also insisted on Sunday they were not responsible for the leak, which it defined as a “private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties”. The club, however, did not deny the details of the report.
El Mundo says the deal signed by football star Messi in 2017 is the “largest in the history of sport” and that it had contributed to the club’s recent financial troubles, which have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic calling it the “colossal contract that ruins Barcelona”.
The 33-year-old could end up collecting a maximum of €555 237 619 ($673 919 104) before it expires on June 30 this year, if all conditions were met.
Messi would have to pay about half of that amount in taxes in Spain.
With six months left of the deal to run, “the player has already earned €511 290 052 ($621m), almost 92% of the possible total”, the report claimed.
“In view of the information published today in the newspaper El Mundo, in relation to the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and the player Lionel Messi, the club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties,” said Barcelona in a statement.
“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.
“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 club where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
According to the report, Messi earned $140m just for signing the contract in 2017 and among his potential bonuses is a $4.3m reward for winning the Champions League and $2.9m for winning Spain’s La Liga, El Mundo claimed.
Messi, who joined Barca in 2000 aged 13 and made his debut in 2004, is the club’s all-time scorer with 650 goals and has also provided 280 assists in 755 appearances for the Catalan club.
Messi helped Barcelona win more than 30 trophies.
Frustrated with Barca’s decline in recent years, Messi is set to decide in the coming months whether he wants to stay at Barcelona or leave the club.
The Argentine tried to leave Barca last August via a release clause in his contract but eventually decided to stay in order to avoid a court case with the club.
Messi’s club contract dwarfs those of the other top earners in global sport.
Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, last year signed the biggest contract in North American sport, worth a minimum of $450m, but it is 10 years long.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with Juventus is worth a reported $36.4m a year, but bonuses may have taken it up to $85m last season. Ronaldo also earns more from endorsements than Messi.