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Lionel Messi: Barcelona says Argentine star is leaving the club

"Despite club and player reaching an agreement and their clear intention to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles," Barcelona said in a statement on its website.

The 34-year-old, who last month won his first Copa America with Argentina, admitted in the summer of 2020 that he had wanted to leave "all year" and claimed a clause in his contract meant he could do so for free, but in the end Messi was forced to stay as Barcelona disagreed and wasn't willing to reduce its €700 million ($897 million) release clause.

The Argentine said his love for the club meant he had no intention of disputing the club's decision in court and dragging out a legal dispute.

Messi's previous contract, which expired at the end of June, was revealed by Spanish newspaper El Mundo to be worth $672 million and made him the highest paid athlete in sports history.

"Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled," added the Barcelona statement.

"FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life."

Messi, who made his Barcelona debut in 2004, has won 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues with the Catalan club.
More to follow.

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