A year on from his Barcelona departure, some still find it strange seeing Lionel Messi represent another club, and it has now reportedly been revealed that he made nine specific demands to the Catalan giants during contract talks leading up to his exit.
The Argentine left the Blaugrana upon the expiration of his deal in August 2021 to the surprise of the footballing world, particularly as president Joan Laporta had, for a long time insisted, Messi would be penning a new contract.
In the year prior to his shock free-agent exit, Messi attempted to force a move away from the club, but then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu refused to give into his wishes in what became a controversial transfer saga.
Manchester City were favourites for his signature at the time, with the Argentina international later revealing that he had been under the impression he would be able to leave Barca as per a prior conversation he had with Bartomeu.
Then, with just a year left on his contract in Catalonia, Messi entered into talks over extending his deal and made nine specific demands, as revealed by Spanish publication El Mundo this week.
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It is reported that Messi had asked for a three-year extension, a private box for his and Luis Suarez's family at the Camp Nou, a €10 million (R174 million) renewal bonus and for his release clause to be lowered to just €9 000 (R157 000), allowing him to effectively leave the club whenever he wanted to.
Messi reportedly also made the demand for the club to repay him his deferred wages with an interest payment on top, for his family to be provided with a private jet during the Christmas period that would take him and his loved ones back to Argentina from Spain each year, and for his wages to increase in line with tax hikes.
Furthermore, the then-six-time Ballon d'Or winner asked for Pepe Costa, who had been employed by the club as Messi's personal assistant, to continue in his role amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and, lastly, for his brother Rodrigo to be paid a commission fee as part of the deal.
It is understood that Barcelona refused to pay Messi the signing bonus he had demanded, and also rejected his request to significantly lower his buyout clause.
A year later, upon Bartomeu's stepping down as president and Laporta's return, Messi agreed to a new contract with the club but could not pen the deal due to the Blaugrana's economic situation, which led to his free-agent switch to Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona have since released a statement in which the club acknowledges El Mundo's report, saying the documents in question are part of the "Barcagate" case in which Bartomeu and former staff members are being investigated for corruption.
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