Lionel Messi‘s contract expired on Wednesday, and his fate with Barcelona remains uncertain.

Messi, who turned 34 last week, is officially a free agent. He has not signed a renewal to extend his 20-year stay at Camp Nou.

Barcelona once had the league’s highest wage bill at more than €600 million per season. However, that has since been cut to just over €300m due to the coronavirus pandemic. Messi’s recent contract with the club was signed in 2017 and was worth more than €500m over four years, including his salary, bonuses and image rights.

Barca cannot afford to pay Messi as much this time because the club has a gross debt of over €1 billion. They have had to be creative with their contract offer to retain Messi.

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Barca president Joan Laporta had drawn up a two-year contract with the option for an additional year. The club wants to give Messi the freedom to move to Major League Soccer after the two-year deal expires.

Laporta has said that Messi is more interested in having a competitive team built around than the financial side of a deal.

Last summer, Messi told Barca that he wanted to leave but lately has opened up to the idea of staying with the club. This change of attitude could be attributed to the resignation of the former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom he did not get along with, and the return of Laporta, who was previously in charge between 2003 and 2010.

Barca has not won the Champions League since 2015 and has gone two seasons without winning La Liga.

Messi is currently away with the Argentina team at Copa America. He scored two goals and assisted another in a 4-1 win against Bolivia. The win allowed Argentina to move on to the quarterfinals against Ecuador on Saturday night.

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