Lionel Messi ‘will leave Barcelona’ less than halfway through new five-year contract

Barcelona: Koeman hopes Messi stays for 'many more years'

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Lionel Messi is set to sign a new five-year contract at Barcelona but reports claim he will only be at the Nou Camp for two more seasons. Messi is officially a free agent after his contract expired on June 30. The Argentina superstar helped his country win the Copa America last weekend and is now set to put pen to paper on a new deal.

Messi was strongly linked with Premier League champions Manchester City and Ligue 1 giants Paris Saint-Germain last year.

The 34-year-old told Barca he wanted to leave in the summer of 2020 but the then president Josep Maria Bartomeu blocked his exit.

The return of Joan Laporta as Barca president has helped the club’s cause in keeping hold of Messi.

Eyebrows were raised earlier this week when the length of Messi’s new deal was revealed.

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A five-year contract would see Messi remain a Barca player until the age of 39.

However, European football expert Julien Laurens claims Messi is instead likely to move to Major League Soccer in 2023.

Messi’s new salary is half of what he was previously earning but the payments will be spread across five seasons to reach what he would have earned on his previous salary in two years, according to Laurens.

Laurens told ESPN FC: “Yes that’s exactly right, the two years before I think he moves to MLS.

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“This is certainly the idea very much, two years and then goes to Miami and MLS, and then you spread those wages of those two years over five years.

“There are different clauses in the contract for him to be able to go to MLS, also for that contract to be terminated.

“That’s why there’s still a few details to be ironed out in the contract but yeah this is pretty much the idea.

“It’s a two-year deal that you spread over five but it’s mostly the next two years that are important.”

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Asked what will happen after two seasons, Laurens added: “[Barca and Messi] will find an agreement, yeah [after two years].”

Meanwhile, former Scotland midfielder Craig Burley has defended Messi’s decision to stay at Barca despite interest from elsewhere.

“That’s just stupid [to say Messi has bottled it by staying],” Burley said.

“Messi has been able to do it wherever he has wanted, albeit I don’t think the clamour for him is now what it would have been three or four years ago, particularly because of age.

“I don’t think there was anybody out there willing to pay the ridiculous wages at this point in his career.”

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