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From the Lionel Messi wikipedia article (emphasis mine):

On 1 July 2021, Messi became a free agent after his contract expired, with negotiations on a new deal complicated due to financial issues at Barcelona. On 5 August, Barcelona announced that Lionel Messi would not be staying at the club, despite both of the parties reaching an agreement and were due to sign a contract that day. The club cited financial and structural obstacles posed by the La Liga regulations as a reason for Messi's departure.

I don't get what's going on here. If Messi and the club reached an agreement, what exactly stopped them from simply signing the contract? Is it possible to deduce the reason from the information that is publicly available?

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The stumbling block seems to have been the La Liga salary cap; while Messi and Barcelona reached an agreement they were both happy with, the league were not happy with the contract under their salary cap/financial fair play rules.

There's some more details in this BBC article in which gives some details of the potential contract arrangement, in particular that Messi's wages for 2 years of playing would actually be paid over 5 years.

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  • So Messi basically could've stayed, but only if he'd been willing to accept a (probably substantial) pay cut?
    – MaxD
    Aug 8 '21 at 13:49
  • As noted in the BBC article, the agreement which was reached already had Messi taking a 50% pay cut, and that still wasn't enough to get Barcelona under the salary cap.
    – Philip Kendall
    Aug 8 '21 at 13:53
  • That means he could've theoretically gone even lower (below the cap) and stayed?
    – MaxD
    Aug 8 '21 at 13:57
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    Sure, I imagine Barcelona would have been able to fit 13300 euros per year into the 2.24 billion euro wage cap. At some point though, however much Messi may like Barcelona, there's only a certain amount of money he's prepared to give up. Also, both players' unions and the league take a dim view of players being dramatically underpaid - the union because it risks depressing wages for all their other members, and the league because it increases the chances of "off the books" deals being made.
    – Philip Kendall
    Aug 8 '21 at 14:07
  • "Messi's wages for 2 years of playing would actually be paid over 5 years" – Why would anyone think that this was going to work? I mean, it is such a blatantly obvious violation of the spirit of the rules. Aug 10 '21 at 21:17

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