Lionel Messi.
  • Lionel Messi would likely be the most expensive player in history should he leave FC Barcelona.
  • The Argentine star has a release clause of around R14 billion in his contract.
  • However, any team that buys him could expect to see a return on their investment due to merchandising and additional broadcast revenues, says football finance expert Dr. Nicolas Scelles.
  • Scelles also believes teams could afford to buy the Argentine without breaking UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
  • "Any team buying Messi may still expect a positive return on investment," Scelles told Insider. 
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Lionel Messi would likely be the most expensive player in history should he leave FC Barcelona. 

However, any team that buys him could expect to see a return on their investment due to merchandising, additional broadcast revenues, and the Argentine's performance on the field, football finance expert Dr. Nicolas Scelles told Insider.

Messi announced his desire to leave Barcelona on Tuesday, handing in a transfer request.

The 33-year-old's representatives believe he is able to leave the club for no fee due a clause in his contract, which states he is able to walk free so long as he states his intention to do so before the close of the current season.

Messi's team believe that due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic the current season ends at the end of August. 

Barcelona, however, is set to argue that the clause expired in June, when the season was originally scheduled to end, and will instead demand interested parties pay close to his $825 million buyout clause.

Given Messi's contract ends next summer however, that fee will likely drop, though to no less than $210 million, according to Forbes.

Such a fee, as well as Messi's reported $70 million annual salary, would put teams at risk of breaking UEFA's Financial Fair Play (FFP), which in essence state that teams cannot spend more than they earn to avoid going into debt.

Asked whether teams could afford Messi without breaking those rules, Scelles, a professor at Manchester Metropolitan University, told Insider: "This would probably depend on whether a transfer fee is required or not and how much, although the amount would be amortized over the length of the contract, but such contract may have a limited duration given Messi is already 33.

"Messi's salary would be of course very expensive but Messi would also attract additional revenues for the club signing him such as merchandising.

He added: "On the top of this, if Messi contributes to a better sporting performance, this will also generate additional revenues, for example more broadcasting revenues since they are partially redistributed based on sporting performance. 

"Broadcasting revenues also depend on the number of games broadcast live for the club so again Messi may have a positive impact here.

"So in the end, teams could stay within Financial Fair Play regulations and still afford Messi, especially if they let one of their expensive players go."

Asked about the prospect of a team selling Messi on at a later date, Scelles said: "It is important to underline that, even without the perspective of selling him later, any team buying Messi may still expect a positive return on investment.

"A key element would be his ability to remain at his best level despite being 33 and getting older and his impact on his new team and its sporting performance."

Messi joined Barcelona aged 10, and made his first team debut aged 17 in October 2004, and has since gone on to score 634 goals, winning ten league titles, four Champions Leagues, and six Ballons d'Or.

Despite the club's failure to win a trophy last season for the first time in 12 years, Messi still enjoyed a fine personal campaign, scoring 25 goals in La Liga to finish as the division's top scorer for a record seventh time. 

Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City are believed to be the frontrunners for Messi's signature.

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