Barcelona are preparing to sell Lionel Messi and believe they can achieve the full value of the multiple World Player of the Year’s quarter billion Euro buyout clause. The unprecedented transfer, which would more than double Gareth Bale's €100million switch to Real Madrid, is planned to be completed by mid-2015 once a sufficiently deep-pocketed buyer can be found.
The strategy is based on a pragmatic business calculation by Barca president Sandro Rosell, who has decided that the Catalan club's long-term interests would be best served by cashing in on Messi when his value is at a peak. The forward turns 27 during this summer's World Cup Finals and will have won every trophy available to him if Argentina triumph at the tournament.
Messi's status within the club has grown to a level that has caused internal problems with coaches and fellow players. Even the recently released authorized biography “Messi” includes a passage detailing an incident in which the forward refused to train for Pep Guardiola after the coach substituted him in a match.
Rosell is also conscious of the ballooning cost of employing Messi, who has been seeking a vastly improved new Camp Nou contract since Cristiano Ronaldo was rewarded with an after-tax salary of €21m a year by Real Madrid earlier this year. Though Messi's own terms were improved to around €14m net when he extended his contract until 2018 in February, his efforts to gain parity with Ronaldo have provoked a public conflict with Barca's hierarchy.
Last month Barcelona vice president Javier Faus dismissed questions about a further improvement. “I do not know why we have to renew again,” Faus said. “We do not have to improve a contract every six months.”
This brought an angry riposte from the injured Messi. "Mr. Faus is a person who knows nothing about football and he wants to run Barcelona as if it were a company, and it is not," Messi said. "Barcelona is one of the biggest clubs in the world and deserves to be represented by the best managers as well. And apart from that, I remind you that neither I nor anyone in my circle has ever asked for either an increase or a contract renewal. And he knows that very well."
While Rosell sought to calm the situation last week by stating that he was open to discussing a new contract with Messi, he already has a succession plan in place having committed over €100m in acquisition costs and wages to signing Neymar. The sums spent on the 21-year-old Brazilian, much of which go directly to a company owned by his family, have been a source of tension not only with Messi's camp, but with other senior figures within the Barcelona squad.