Barcelona cannot afford to keep Lionel Messi at Camp Nou on his current salary, presidential candidate Toni Freixa has admitted.
Messi’s contract is due to expire next year and the club’s all-time record goalscorer and arguably greatest ever player may need some persuasion to stay beyond that.
Freixa has indicated it will not be through a pay rise or even a freeze on his wages that Barcelona invite Messi to extend his time at the club.
But Freixa is hopeful the 33-year-old Argentinian can be convinced to remain, despite Messi having pushed for the chance to leave in the close season.
Former president Josep Maria Bartomeu warned before his departure that the club would face a drastic drop in revenue of around €300million because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to El Curubito, Freixa underlined the financial problems facing Barcelona.
Freixa said: “We will speak calmly with Leo, face to face with the best for Barca as the objective.
“With him, as with all the players who have to renew or are signed, we will make an offer that of course will not be able to match the conditions that he has had up to now.”
Messi is Barcelona’s best-paid player, with wide-ranging estimates abounding about his exact annual salary which is assumed to run deep into eight figures. It may be that he is invited to defer part of his pay packet to be paid at a later date.
“It is obvious and we cannot deceive members that the proposal which we will offer [to Messi] will not be the same as he has had so far, because our income has fallen significantly and another formula will have to be found,” Freixa said.
“You don’t have to win over Messi or convince him with other things, you have to look him in the eye and talk, to know what each other wants, what he wants and what Barca wants. We think Messi still has a lot of football in him.”
A hint of what Messi might expect came when Gerard Pique, Frenkie de Jong, Clement Lenglet and Marc-Andre ter Stegen last month signed contract extensions with Barcelona.
Those deals followed weeks of negotiations and included “temporary salary adjustments” in response to difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Pique suggested the wages being sacrificed now will be repaid in future, once the club is in a better financial state.
Another presidential candidate Pere Riera recently said he “wouldn’t pull out all the stops” to keep Messi at Camp Nou, but that he believed the forward wished to stay.