Lionel Messi is going to Paris. But in the ranks of the world’s highest-paid athletes, he is not going anywhere.
The 34-year-old star, considered soccer’s best current player, is moving to Paris Saint-Germain, where his salary will be about $75 million a year, several people familiar with the terms of the deal told Forbes. In addition, he will receive a bonus and a share of the player’s rights, including the sale of jerseys. That could be significant money: When Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Italy’s Juventus in 2018, for example, the club sold $61 million worth of his jerseys in 24 hours. Messi could generate a similar hype that could be monetized in far-flung places like soccer-crazed Los Angeles, where PSG opened a team store in May.
Overall, the deal would put Messi ahead of his longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo ($70 million) and his new teammate Neymar Jr. ($76 million) in terms of on-field wages; with annual advertising revenue of $33 million, his place among the world’s highest-paid athletes should be secure.
With Messi in the French capital, PSG is well positioned to continue its dominance in the French Ligue 1 and on the international stage. The club has seven of the last nine French league titles under its belt and will reach the UEFA Champions League final in 2020. And the timing could not be better. The combination of Messi and Neymar (contract signed until 2025) could be a compelling reason for 22-year-old phenomenon Kylian Mbappe to re-sign with PSG when his contract expires next summer.
Forbes estimates that Messi has earned more than $1.2 billion in his career before taxes and agency fees, earning $875 million on the field and $375 million in sponsorships. He became the highest-paid player in the world this year, earning $130 million ($97 million in salary and $33 million from partners Adidas, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Gatorade, among others). And that figure could have been even higher: Forbes estimates that Messi has lost between $25 million and $75 million in salary and bonuses over the past two seasons due to salary cuts due to the pandemic.
With Lionel Messi in the lineup, Paris Saint-Germain now has three of the four highest-paid players in the world.
According to a statement from Barcelona, Messi and the club have reached an agreement for the superstar to stay in Spain, but due to “financial and structural obstacles,” the deal cannot be completed. This refers to the pandemic reduction of the salary cap in La Liga, which reduced the league’s total spending on player salaries by $700 million last year. Barcelona itself has faced financial difficulties, with Spanish newspaper El Mundo reporting in January that the club is “on the verge of bankruptcy. The club’s latest financial documents show a loss of $117 million in 2020 and $1.4 billion in debt.
“We’re over the salary cap we’re allowed. It’s that simple,” Barcelona president Laporta said at a news conference Friday.
Messi’s departure from Barcelona closes the door to an amazing career at Camp Nou. He played in 778 games, scoring 672 goals and giving 268 assists. He won 35 titles and 78 awards, including a record six Golden Balls.
PSG has scheduled a press conference Wednesday at 11 a.m. CET to announce the move.