Barcelona: Koeman hopes Messi stays for 'many more years'
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Barcelona are desperately hoping to shift Antoine Griezmann off their books in order to facilitate the signing of Lionel Messi, who is now a free agent after the expiry of his previous deal at the beginning of the month, according to report. Griezmann has been heavily linked with a return to Atletico Madrid in recent weeks as Barca look to raise funds ahead of the new campaign.
The Catalan giants are currently in the midst of a financial crisis, the scale of which is plaguing their efforts to renew Messi’s contract.
The mercurial forward is formally unattached to Barca for the first time since he joined the club as a 13-year-old prodigy, but is widely expected to remain at the Nou Camp into next season and beyond.
Despite the apparent confidence of club president Joan Laporta, there is still plenty of work to do in order to secure Messi’s signature for the foreseeable future.
A deal has reportedly been agreed between the two parties, but Barca’s financial situation is preventing it from being rubber-stamped.
Meanwhile, next season’s salary cap in La Liga is expected to be around the £200million mark, meaning that a number of players will need to be sold to bolster the club’s hopes of retaining Messi over the coming weeks and months.
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Griezmann could be in line to make way as part of Barca’s summer exodus, with Atletico reportedly keen on bringing the Frenchman back to the Spanish capital.
The 30-year-old’s departure could have a significant implication on Messi’s future, with the former ‘almost certainly incompatible’ with Laporta’s plans to keep the Argentina international, according to The Guardian.
It is claimed that a return to Atletico for Griezmann would offer the swiftest solution to Barca’s dilemma by saving upwards of £70m in amortisation fees.
The monetary boost gained from such a move would go a long way to enabling the signing of Messi on a free transfer while aiding the club’s dire financial situation.
A swap deal involving Griezmann and Atletico’s Saul Niguez has reportedly been tabled, with Barca still weighing up their options as their desperation increases.
Laporta recently declared that he cannot envisage anything other than Messi staying at the club next season, but warned that departures will be required to allow the forward’s new deal to be finalised.
“Leo Messi’s boots will continue on the Camp Nou pitch,” said Laporta last month.
“He wants to stay. I do not contemplate a no. It isn’t easy, we’ll do what we can. There is no need to seduce him, he is determined if there are a series of circumstances to stay.
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“He is OK but he hasn’t signed yet. [Sergio] Kun Aguero tells him every day: ‘Sign that, we will play together’.
“In economic terms, he has made it very easy, but financial fair play is another battleground. We have to follow the rules, we will follow them.
“There will be more sales and loans. Without paying a transfer fee. We will do a lot of loans, because we have a very high sports payroll compared to other clubs.”
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