A drop in revenues has forced Barcelona to jettison players for very little in return to lighten a salary burden that had become unsustainable during a recession and amid increasing uncertainty, The Associated Press reported.
But Barcelona’s vice president of economic affairs said that the club never considered selling Messi when he demanded to leave regardless of the acute financial difficulties the Spanish club is facing.
Messi meant far too much for both fans and the club’s long-term future to contemplate selling him for some quick cash and savings, said Jordi Moix, Barcelona's board member charged with handling its finances.
“We never considered what the impact on the economy of the club would be if he left,” Moix told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “(Messi) is a player who has been with the club for 20 years and is a central driver of the club, and we have to consider that with our sponsors.”
Barcelona suffered a €97-million ($115 million) loss last season, adding an economic crunch to the sporting calamity that the club endured when it finished the season without a title and a historic 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Messi, now 33, costs Barcelona €100 million ($118 million) in wages and salary tax according to media reports that the club will neither confirm nor deny because of confidentiality agreements. His buyout clause stands at an untouchable €700 million ($828 million), but he could have likely fetched a hefty price if Barcelona had been willing to listen to offers.
In August, Messi tried to leave the club, demoralized by the defeat to Bayern and convinced that his chances of winning were higher elsewhere. Barcelona refused to let him go, and Messi relented after ruling out taking Barcelona to court. He publicly committed to finishing his contract that expires next summer and has been his competitive self in the first three games of the season, earning praise from new coach Ronald Koeman.
The club, also, holds out hope that Messi will end up staying.
“We think it would be good for him to finish his career with the club,” Moix said.
Barcelona had projected record revenues of more than €1 billion ($1.18 billion) for last season. It fell €203 million ($240 million) short, according to the club’s annual financial report presented by Moix last week, due to the coronavirus. Zero ticket sales with its Camp Nou stadium closed since March, lower revenues from TV and merchandising and the closure of its popular museum have forced the club to take drastic measures.