Lionel Messi exclusive: ‘Verbal pact’ with PSG denied amid renewal attempts as Barcelona plan faces major issue
Paris Saint-Germain are aiming to extend the contract of Lionel Messi but have no kind of “verbal pact” with the Argentine legend to do so, TEAMtalk has been told.
The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner will be out of contract at the end of this season, so there has been speculation about his future too. A move to the MLS with Inter Miami has been suggested as one solution away from Paris.
Messi has been with the Ligue 1 giants since 2021, when he emotionally left Barcelona. Since then, he has scored 26 goals from 60 appearances for the club.
But he is facing an uncertain future, which obviously isn’t ideal for PSG. After all, even at the age of 35, who would want to lose Messi from their squad?
Indeed, TEAMtalk has been told by Ben Jacobs that Messi is obviously someone PSG want to keep. That said, there is no “verbal pact” between the two parties, as some other sources have suggested.
“PSG want to keep hold of all their top players,” said Jacobs. “So with Messi, the aim of the club is to extend and PSG’s preference is a one plus one deal. And Messi had intimated via his camp that he was very willing to stay at PSG and he already has a one-year extension within his current deal. So it’s a case of deciding if that’s activated, if a new deal is put down, or if Messi wants to go elsewhere.
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“After the World Cup it was widely reported that there was a so-called verbal pact and now as the parties start to have more serious talks, including Wednesday, there is a change of narrative, somehow suggesting that there’s problems or hurdles.
“But my understanding, as I reported at the time in December, is that the Messi intimation that he’d like to sit down and talk to PSG came from the Messi camp, but caught PSG very much by surprise because they hadn’t had it intimated to them that Messi had agreed to anything. So when they heard about Messi, his willingness to extend it, PSG they were delighted, of course, but ultimately club sources were denying that they’d held any talks, denying that they’d agreed anything, denying that Nasser Al-Khelaifi had spoken to Messi about a renewal during the World Cup.
“They did meet before the final but only for Al-Khelaifi to wish Messi well ahead of it. And why would Messi be thinking and talking about his contract anyway, in the middle of World Cup? His focus was to win the World Cup. He did that. Then he went away and celebrated and came back late to training. And PSG have always said very consistently that talks between them and Messi in a player to club sense, via Messi’s father, would only happen in 2023. And now we’re starting to see those talks materialise in practice.
“And it’s going to take a little bit of time, but PSG are not putting a deadline on it. You’re going to read a lot about how things are delayed, Messi has had a U-turn. But that’s just a media narrative. That is not correct to my understanding, when you consider once again, the most important point in all of this, which is that Lionel Messi and PSG never had this verbal pact that’s being reported.
“What happened was that after the World Cup, the Messi side intimated that they felt it was right to stay at PSG, but nothing was agreed, no specifics were discussed and PSG were caught by surprise when that news came out, which tells you that they were not in the loop on anything. Now the actual meetings are taking place. And PSG remain optimistic that Messi will stay.”
Lionel Messi attracting interest but ‘nothing advanced’ with Barcelona
PSG are only the second club Messi has represented in his senior career. Across his time with them and previously Barcelona, he has stood out as being one of the world’s very best players – ever.
Naturally, other clubs are going to be keen on him. But as things stand, Messi wants to keep challenging himself at the highest level possible.
“There’s bound to be other interest,” added Jacobs. “We know about Inter Miami and their long-standing desire to try and lure Messi over and they could be quite patient anyway, so he could extend at PSG and then still go to MLS when he’s a little bit later. The Al-Hilal links are referred to by club sources there as a dream.
“But the reality is that Messi still feels that he can play at an elite level for a bit longer. And let’s not forget, he’s a few years younger than Cristiano Ronaldo. And I don’t see Messi being as driven by money or package alone. I think this is about Messi seeing a project in the same way that he was patient and managed to lift the Copa America, then he was patient and managed to lift the World Cup. And now I think that he’s patient within the PSG project and would obviously like to win the Champions League as well.
“So that could still happen this season, of course, and he could leave but PSG are still in the box seat here.”
An alternative would be for Messi to secure a return to Barcelona, which many have dreamed about ever since he left the club.
However, the key issue there would be his salary, since it wouldn’t align with the club’s current strategies.
“And then from Barcelona’s perspective, a lot of it is just a desire from Joan Laporta, to bring Messi back on better terms,” continued Jacobs. “And Laporta said many times, including to me that Barcelona feel there is a moral debt, to have Messi back at the Camp Nou.
“But in practice, there’s nothing advanced between Barcelona and Lionel Messi. And they would also have to factor in how they can afford Lionel Messi given that the aim is to reduce the wage bill by potentially as much as 200 million euros. And it’s very difficult to think that that’s possible if your summer priority is bringing Lionel Messi back because even if Lionel Messi was prepared to take a significant wage cut, he would still likely be one of the highest earners at the football club at exactly the time when Barcelona need everybody at the football club to earn significantly less wages.
“So I think PSG are calm about the situation. But the talks are really only just getting started. And that’s the thing that’s skewing the narrative in all of this because everyone started with this premise that speaking to sources, I’m not sure was entirely correct, that Messi had somehow verbally agreed already to extending. So the fact now it’s not done as a problem.
“But if you actually flip that and say Messi never agreed to anything directly with PSG, and no specifics were ever discussed in December, then you start to understand why something isn’t done at this point because the talks are really only getting underway.”