Lionel Messi

BARCELONA: Barcelona have reached a deal on principle with Leo Messi for the Argentine veteran to remain with the Catalan club for another five years, but on a reduced wage, Spanish media reported on Wednesday. Messi, who earlier this month finally landed a major international trophy with Argentina when they beat rivals Brazil to win the Copa America, "will sign a five-season contract with a release clause of €600 million ($709 million)," according to Catalan sports daily L'Esportiu.

"The player will reduce his wage by 50 percent. Now it just remains for the lawyers to look over the agreement and give it the OK. Once that happens (his) continuation will be official," said Madrid-based sports daily Marca which confirmed L'Esportiu's initial story. According to the latter, Messi, 34, will earn in the region of €20 million basic next season with the Catalan club, which he has led to ten league crowns as well as four Champions Leagues.

Last season was a comparative disappointment as the club could only land the Spanish Cup and exited in the last 16 of the Champions League. Last summer Messi sought to leave Barca as a free agent via a clause in his contract before agreeing to see out the final year as the club threatened to go to court. There had been speculation that Messi would sign on for two years and then potentially head to Major League Soccer, although friend and former Barca teammate Neymar has said he would love to team up with him again at Paris Saint Germain.

"Finally, both parties saw fit to extend their link for a longer period of time," reported Barcelona-based sports daily Sport. Another Barcelona sports paper Mundo Deportivo suggested the longer contract length was part of a quid pro quo taking into account a curtailed salary structure as Barcelona battle crippling debts. Several of the papers said an official announcement on the deal would follow within days.

With Barcelona laboring under debts of several hundred million euros, Spanish media made much earlier this year of the reported 555 million euros paid Messi over four seasons from Nov 2017 to the end of last month. National daily El Mundo splashed in January on what it termed "Messi's pharaonic contract which is ruining Barca" - that sum including image rights and a series of performance-related bonuses with the player reportedly earning a net €297 million. - AFP