Argentine superstar Lionel Messi will not return to FC Barcelona despite initially agreeing to a new contract, the soccer club announced Thursday.
The Spanish club cited “financial and structural obstacles” in the announcement.
“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,” the club wrote in a statement.
The two parties agreed to a new five-year contract with “significant wage reduction to prolong his stay” on July 14. In his most recent contract that ended on June 30, Messi made more than $594 million over four years.
Barcelona blamed “Spanish league regulations” for not allowing the club to sign a new contract with Messi.
Last summer, the 34-year-old expressed interest in leaving Barcelona at the end of his deal and reportedly had interest from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Messi had his request denied by then-president Josep Bartomeu. New president Joan Laporta appeared to have convinced Messi to stay, but the team struggled to fit the player’s salary.
Messi has played for Barcelona for his entire 17-year career, helping it win 35 titles. He helped the club win the Champions League four times, the Spanish league 10 times, the Copa del Rey seven times and the Spanish Super Cup eight times. He earned a record six Ballon d’Or awards as the world’s top player. He is the team’s all-time scorer with 672 goals in 778 appearances. He is the top scorer in the Spanish league with 474 goals in 520 matches.
Barcelona removed Messi from its squad list on the club’s website shortly after the announcement, and posted a video on its Twitter accounts thanking the player.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.