Messi staying with Barcelona to 2021 after new contract
BARCELONA: Barcelona enjoyed a big win on Saturday without even playing.
Lionel Messi finally put Barcelona and its fans at ease by signing a new contract that will keep the Argentine forward at the Spanish club through 2021 when he will be 34.
"The club ... is my home," Messi said. "My dream was to finish my career at Barca and we are moving down that path."
The club did not reveal many financial details, including Messi's salary. According to El Mundo newspaper, Messi will receive 30 million euros ($35.8 million) per season along with a signing bonus of 50 million euros ($59.6 million).
With his former contract set to run out next summer, Messi would have been free to listen to offers from other teams on Jan. 1. That approaching deadline generated speculation Messi could follow Neymar's lead and leave.
Messi's new deal includes a buyout clause of 700 million euros ($835 million). The massive figure is aimed at keeping away even the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, which secured Neymar in the offseason by triggering his buyout clause with a record 222 million euros ($262 million) payout.
Club president Josep Bartomeu said Barcelona and Messi already agreed to a new deal in June, but that following Neymar's departure they revised it to more than double the buyout clause. It was originally set at 300 million euros ($358 million).
Bartomeu said the new contract "is more in line with the current situation in the ever-changing world of football."
Barcelona announced in July that Messi agreed to a new deal that it would make official "in the coming weeks." The wait that turned into months eventually caused many Barcelona supporters to fear the worst.
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde said having Messi signed up for four more years should help the team focus on its strong Spanish league and Champions League campaigns this season. Barcelona visits second-place Valencia on Sunday seeking a win that would give it a commanding lead as it tries to retake the Liga title from Real Madrid.
"I am not an expert in contract clauses, but if we look at what happened with Neymar, then you have the answer," Valverde said. "The renewal of Leo is great news for the club. It calms everything down, especially all that surround the team. We already were calm because we see him train every day and we see his commitment to the club."
Messi has been the heart and soul of Barcelona for more than a decade.
A five-time world player of the year, Messi has helped Barcelona win 30 titles since he arrived from Argentina at age 13. That haul includes four Champions Leagues and eight Spanish leagues.
Now in his 14th season, Messi is the club's all-time leading scorer with 523 in 602 matches.
He received his fourth Golden Shoe award on Friday for leading all of Europe's leagues in scoring last season.
"The objective is to continue achieving things, fill the club's trophy cases, and keep making history at Barca," Messi said. "We've been lucky enough to have won a great many things and I hope there will be more in the future."