Paris St-Germain are confident signing Lionel Messi would be profitable in the long run and could sign him within a week, the PA news agency understands.
Barcelona announced on Thursday night that the Argentina forward would be leaving, with financial restrictions preventing them from offering him a new contract.
PSG were understood initially to be of the view that a deal could not be done but sources close to the matter say a direct approach from Messi to PSG’s head coach, Mauricio Pochettino, changed the dynamic.
Overnight the French club undertook a commercial analysis and determined that signing Messi would work within the confines of financial fair play rules.
The personal connection between Messi and his compatriot Pochettino and the fact the deal is a free transfer are factors in PSG pursuing the deal. They believe Messi’s signing would drive up their commercial revenues in Europe and South America should he link up with Neymar.
Barcelona’s president, Joan Laporta, said on Friday that the only route available for keeping Messi would have put the club at risk “for the next 50 years”.
Speaking at a news conference, he said: “The club has over 100 years of history and is above any player, even the best in history, to whom we will be eternally grateful. Above players, managers and presidents, Barça will always be above them.”
Laporta said the club and Messi had both wanted to sign a new contract. “I said we’d do everything possible to keep Messi at Barça within the economic situation of club,” he said.
“We reached agreement but couldn’t formalise it, because of the club’s economic situation, which means we can’t register the player due to salary limits. I don’t want to go on and on about the situation we inherited, and the awful decisions that were made in the past. We have gone from bad to worse.”
Laporta said he did not want to generate false hope when asked whether Messi could still stay at Barcelona, who have a total debt of more than €1bn.
La Liga has a salary cap, calculated based on a club’s financial health, which was reduced in November in the wake of the financial pressures caused by the pandemic, and Barcelona have been hit hard.
Laporta said the club had lined up two new deals with Messi, first a two-year deal payable over five, and then a five-year deal. But he said they were unable to get either deal done because of La Liga’s FFP rules, and that he was not willing to agree to the league’s proposed private equity investment from CVC solely to secure Messi’s future.
“In order to meet FFP, Barça had to agree to an operation, essentially remortgaging the club, which would affect us for the next 50 years in terms of TV rights, and I had to make the decision,” he said. “We cannot put the institution at greater risk.”
Despite opposition from Barcelona and Real Madrid the majority of the league’s clubs are expected to give their final approval to the CVC deal in an upcoming general assembly.
Laporta said that the coronavirus-impacted 2020-21 season’s financial losses would be double what had been expected. “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.”
Laporta, asked whether he was aware of PSG’s interest, said: “Whatever he does is up to him – you’ll have to ask him. I will not answer that. I don’t know that, but it is always being said they [PSG] have options.”