Lionel Messi's €555m Barcelona contract 'most expensive ever' for an athlete

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Lionel Messi's current contract with Barcelona is reportedly worth up to €555m (£492m) over four seasons - thought to be the biggest pay deal ever for an athlete.

Spain's El Mundo newspaper said it had access to the document the footballing star signed with the Catalan club in 2017, which included fixed incomes and extras that could reach nearly €138m (£122m) each season.

The 33-year-old Argentinian - considered by many to be the best footballer ever - would have to pay about half of that amount in taxes in Spain.

The report said Messi had already secured more than €510m (£452m) of the total contract, which the newspaper said was the most expensive contract ever paid to an athlete.

The leak comes as Barcelona wrestles with a huge debt largely caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi, who has spent his entire career at the club after joining in 2000 as a youth player, sees his contract with the Catalans run out this year.

He had asked to leave with immediate effect at the end of last season after expressing unhappiness with the direction being taken by the club.

It followed his side's humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals, one of the worst in the player's career and in the club's history.

That loss capped a difficult season for Barcelona - the first without a title since 2007-08.

Messi had his transfer request rejected by the club but will be able to leave for free when this season ends.

It is unclear where the player might move to, but his salary means very few clubs could afford him, especially with the drop in revenue caused by the pandemic.

Only those clubs with wealthy backers whose fortunes have been less affected by the impact of COVID-19 will be his possible options.

Messi has won a record six Ballon d'Or awards during his time at Barcelona, while helping the club win 10 Spanish league titles and four Champions League crowns.

The club has been led by a caretaker board since president Josep Bartomeu resigned in October while facing a no-confidence motion.

Barcelona can move to second place in the Spanish league with a home win against Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.