Free-agent superstar footballer Lionel Messi will be joining French club Paris Saint-Germain, in what is unarguably the biggest blockbuster move of the European summer transfer window. The former Barcelona talisman will sign a two-year deal in the French capital, with the option of a third year.

The Catalan club were unable to retain the services of their greatest-ever player due to the increasing weight of their debts, and the resulting urgency to cut down player salaries. Barcelona announced on August 5 that it had ended negotiations with Messi, which meant he was free to join another club.

Soon, multiple reports emerged claiming that the Argentine star had agreed to a 50 percent wage cut in order to prolong his stay with the only top-tier club he has ever played for.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta also revealed that adding Messi’s contract would have meant that player salaries would have represented 110 percent of club revenues, when La Liga rules required that figure to be at 70 percent.

 

After being linked with a bunch of top clubs over the weekend, Messi was spotted in Paris on August 10 to complete his move, marking the end of a 21-year association with Barcelona. He will wear the number 30 in France, and will continue to be among the best-paid players in the sport.

PSG Salary

The 34-year-old Messi is expected to net a per annum salary of around $75 million at his new club, multiple people familiar with the deal have told Forbes. In addition, he will earn a bonus and a cut of player rights, including jersey sales.

On the whole, the deal will likely keep Messi ahead of his longtime rival Cristiano Ronaldo ($70 million) and his new teammate Neymar Jr. ($76 million) with his on-field pay; with his $33 million in annual endorsement earnings factored in, his place among the world’s highest-paid athletes should be secure.

 

The move enables PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino to pick from the attacking riches of Messi, Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Ángel di María. With Messi in tow, the club now has three of the top four highest-paid soccer players in the world as well, including Mbappe and Neymar.

After completing the switch, Messi said: “I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. The club and its vision are in perfect harmony with my ambitions.

“I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out on to the pitch at the Parc des Princes.”

‘Unmatched’ Barcelona Wages

The PSG contract, however, is a shadow of what Messi made at Barcelona in the recent years. He had signed one of the most lucrative deals in sports history in 2017, as per a report by Spanish daily El Mundo.

 

The 30-page contract was leaked to the outlet in January 2021, according to which the deal had a value of over $650 million over its four-year duration, if various conditions were met. According to the report, it provided Messi a $161 million annual base salary, a $135 million signing bonus and a $91 million-plus loyalty payment.

This figure was much higher than previously thought and “unmatched” in team sports, according to Forbes. Such astronomical wages and contracts are considered to be factors in why FC Barcelona is saddled by debts projected to hover in the $1 billion range.

In his two-decade-plus stay with the Camp Nou side, Messi was involved in a total of 977 goals (672 goals + 305 assists) in 778 competitive appearances. Along with personal accolades including six Ballon d’Or trophies, he helped the club win 10 La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues, to name a few.

Net Worth

Messi has compiled more than $1.2 billion in career earnings before taxes and agent fees, according to Forbes estimates, having earned $875 million on the pitch and $375 million in endorsements. He was the highest-paid soccer player in the world this year at $130 million.

This figure could have been even higher with Messi estimated to lose between $25 million and $75 million of salary and bonuses as a result of pandemic-related pay cuts over the last two seasons.

 

In 2019, Forbes ranked Messi first among the highest-earning athletes in the world, putting his income for the year at $127m (£98m), and fourth overall. He was $18m ahead of Ronaldo and $22m ahead of Neymar, the next athletes on the list.

While Messi reportedly earned an astonishing $130 million in 2020, he did not top Forbes’ latest list of the highest-paid athletes. He lost to mixed martial arts’ biggest star, Conor McGregor, who is estimated to have made $180 million.

As of early 2021, Messi’s net worth was estimated to be around £309m ($400m). These figures are speculative, though, especially as his business interests tend not to be widely publicised.

Endorsements

Among a plethora of his brand partnerships, the most significant is with the makers of his boots. A couple of months or so after Ronaldo signed a “long-term” deal with Nike in 2016 (similar to the lifetime agreement penned by basketball star LeBron James), Messi signed one with Adidas — potentially worth $1 billion.

The exact terms were not disclosed, but reports in Spain suggest it will take him through at least until the end of his playing career.

 

His other prominent endorsements include Pepsi, Gillette, Turkish Airlines, Anheuser Busch InBev, Gatorade, Hard Rock Cafe, Jacob & Co, and Ooredoo. As part of their 2019 celebrity rich list, Forbes had valued his endorsements at $35m (£27m) for that year in total.

Charity

From founding his own charity to being an honorary ambassador of UNICEF, Messi has been widely regarded for his philanthropic activities, since 2007. His foundation continues to help underprivileged children with education and healthcare through medical treatment, transportation, and recuperation.

 

The Argentine also supports youth football clubs in his home country, such as Sarmiento, Rosario Central, Newell’s, River Plate, and Boca Junior. Messi had made a one million US dollar donation in March 2020 in order to fight the spread of the COVID19 pandemic.

Image credits: Twitter/PSG, Lionel Messi