Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman has joined the club’s playing squad in posting a farewell message to Camp Nou icon Lionel Messi, following Thursday’s announcement that the six-time Ballon d’Or will not be signing a new contract.
Barça had wanted to secure Messi’s long-term future with a new five-year contract. But despite a willingness from the player to accept a 50% pay cut, La Liga’s strict salary cap rules have ensured that the Catalans do not have the resources to register the contract and still comply, the ultimate punishment for financial mismanagement and spiralling debt.
Barça players, including long-term friends and colleagues Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, have expressed their sorrow over Messi’s departure and now Koeman has joined his squad in doing so.
“Still hard to understand that you will not play for Barcelona anymore. Thanks for everything you have done for our club,” Koeman said in a post on Instagram.
“I really enjoyed the full season we worked together. I am impressed with your work ethic and desire to win. It makes you the best player in the world. For now, I wish you and your family the best!”
Koeman, himself a Barcelona legend from his own playing days, was appointed head coach last summer and worked with Messi for only the 2020/21 campaign.
The Argentine, now 34, is widely expected to join Paris Saint-Germain in the coming days, which would see him reunite in the French capital with friend and ex-Barça teammate Neymar, as well as work under coach and fellow countryman Mauricio Pochettino.
Messi is line to earn a €40m net salary per season with PSG, which would immediately make him the club’s highest paid player above Neymar. There is said to be hope among club officials that Messi will help pay for himself by further raising the international profile and appeal of the club to attract lucrative additional sponsors and commercial partners.