Barcelona President Joan Laporta has explained that the club was forced to let Lionel Messi leave because his wage demands would have jeopardised the club's future.
Messi has been at the club for all of his playing career, but Barcelona announced on Thursday that the Argentina superstar would leave after 18 years.
The club and Messi had both wanted to sign a new contract but the six-time Ballon d'Or winner's deal would have taken salaries to 110% of the club's earnings, a financially risky move given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Laporta said.
“The club is above everything – even above the best player in the world,” The Barca chief told a news conference.
Without Messi's wages, salaries would account for 95% of Barcelona's income, he said.
“Last season will end with double the losses that we predicted – over 400 million (euros),” he added.
Laporta said salaries should ideally account for 65%-70% of the club's income, “so there's still a lot of work to be done.”
He told a news conference the club and Barca's all-time top scorer and appearance maker had both wanted to sign a new contract, however.
Messi's last contract, signed in 2017, was the most lucrative in world sport according to a January report in newspaper El Mundo.
Forbes has listed him as the athlete with the world's second-highest earnings in 2021, at $130 million.
Laporta said the club had lined up two new deals with the Argentine, firstly a two-year deal made payable over five, and then a separate five-year deal.
But he said that they were unable to get either deal done because of La Liga's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules, and that he was not willing to agree to the league's proposed private equity investment from CVC solely in order to secure Messi's future.
“We need to move on. We won't just try to meet FFP criteria by putting the club at risk for the next 50 years,” he told reporters.
This article was most recently revised and updated 9 months ago