MADRID. — It’s the world exclusive which every news outlet dreams of and Spanish newspaper, El Mundo, are basking the spotlight after their stunning scoop on Lionel Messi’s huge Barcelona US$673 million contract has provoked a feeding frenzy around the globe.
Not even the Argentine captain’s 650 goal for Barca on Sunday has managed to overshadow the fallout from the leaked documents showing his staggering four-year contract.
That the Catalan giants could offer Messi such a contract, when the club are reported to be on “on the verge of bankruptcy” due to debts of €1.173billion (£1.036billion), has led to many analysts questioning the deal.
Some are evening accusing Messi of dragging Barca towards financial ruin as the club struggled to keep serving his huge contract.
Yesterday, European football expert Andy Brassell told talkSPORT he believes the leak was made to shift some of the blame onto the Argentina star.
“We are going to read it out in the name of accuracy: €555,237,619, the contract that is ruining Barcelona, according to El Mundo,’’he said.
“That’s over four years, and 92 per cent of the bonuses that are part of that figure have been met already.
“It included a €67m signing on fee, a €74m loyalty bonus as well, and it’s clear what’s happening here.
“Someone has leaked this to prove that the club can’t keep Messi, and it’s not in their best interests, and I guess to shift some of the blame onto him. A bit like Kobe Bryant in his final years at the Lakers.’’
Barca have been without a president since Josep Maria Bartomeu resigned in October and are due to hold presidential elections on March 7.
In December, interim president Carlos Tusquets claimed the club should have sold Messi last summer when he wanted to leave.
Tusquets said: “Both in terms of what you save on the wage bill as well as the money you make, it would’ve been desirable.”
In publishing its story, El Mundo said the analysis of the documents were a laborious process carried out in recent days.
“The world exclusive that El Mundo has published this Sunday is the result of many months of work, accelerated in recent days, when finally the most sought-after document reached the newsroom,” reads an excerpt.
Barca coach Ronald Koeman has called on Barcelona to sack any employee who might have been responsible for leaking details of Messi’s contract to the press.
“I don’t understand how anyone could link Messi to Barca’s ruin,’’ said Koeman.
“He has spent years proving his quality and doing great things for this club, helping it win many important trophies.
“Whoever published this had bad intentions and wanted to cause Barca damage. But we have to be united and focused, we have to forget about whatever has been published.
“Without Leo we couldn’t aspire to win very much. We have known for a very long time that he is the best player in the world, he has done so much for this club and is decisive. We have to respect everything Messi has done.
“If this was someone from the club they cannot have a future here.”
Barca said they were not involved in the leak. “The club regrets [the contract’s] publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties,” the club said in a statement.
Messi’s bumper contract, therefore, is worth on average up to £123m per year with all the bonuses included.
One of those bonuses was a £102m “renewal fee’’ simply for signing on the dotted line in November 2017.
He then pockets an extra £69m each year as a ‘loyalty bonus’ for staying at the club.
Barcelona released a statement on Sunday morning to deny leaking the documents and threaten legal action against El Mundo.
“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 entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
Messi, who is free to talk to other clubs now, said in December: “I know there are a lot of people at Barca who still love me, but I’m going to do what is best for the club and for myself.
“Besides, I want to live in Barcelona and be involved in the club in some way when I retire.
“I don’t know if I’m going to leave, but if I do, I would like to leave in the best way possible and be able to return to the club in the future.
“Barcelona are much bigger than any player. I hope that every time the club have to, they will do good things to lift important titles.”
The leaked information regarding Messi’s contract comes just days after Barca financial report revealed debts in excess of £1 billion.
That includes a short-term debt of £638m, £236m of which needs to be paid back to various banks and financial institutions before June 30. — talkSPORT/CNN/Mirror/The Sun.