One of the world’s greatest players is now officially a free agent, twelve months on from his aborted attempt to leave Barcelona, Lionel Messi is now out of contract.
The Argentine superstar’s deal expired at midnight and despite months of rumour and conjecture, he has failed to commit to an extension.
Talks over a new contract are believed to be ongoing, meaning Messi may well decide to stay at the Nou Camp.
But, for now, he is available for absolutely nothing.
Spanish football writer Guillem Balague said earlier this week that Barcelona had “raised the level of urgency” in contract talks, with the hopes of making an announcement of a new two-year deal before the start of July.
“Messi’s contract renewal is new president Joan Laporta’s main priority and he is currently negotiating it directly with Messi’s father and representative, Jorge Messi,” he said.
“To be able to keep the Argentine, the club will have to reduce their wage bill by around €200 million to meet La Liga’s Financial Fair Play requirements.
“Messi knows of the interest from other clubs, but up to now has not negotiated anything with them, waiting first to hear what Barcelona were offering.”
The 34-year-old has been linked with moves to Paris St-Germain and Manchester City, where he would be reunited with his former boss at Barcelona Pep Guardiola, as well as America’s Major League Soccer.
He is currently in Brazil playing for Argentina at the Copa America and became their most-capped player when he made his 148th international appearance against Bolivia on Tuesday, scoring twice and setting up another in a 4-1 win.