LIONEL MESSI will wake up on international duty in Brazil this morning unemployed and knowing there is no weekly £2.4million pay cheque on the way.
That is because his Barcelona contract expired at midnight meaning he is now a free agent.
Messi’s most-recent deal, signed in November 2017, ran until June 30, 2021.
And with a new deal yet to be confirmed then announced, he now does not have a contract with the club he joined 7,478 days earlier aged 13 in 2001.
That technically opens the door for any club to sign him for free immediately.
However, it is widely accepted captain Messi will put pen to paper on fresh terms for two years at the Nou Camp very soon and continue his legacy with the LaLiga giants.
Barca president Joan Laporta called for ‘calm’ among supporters, telling them ‘don’t worry’.
He added: “We want Lionel Messi to stay and Leo wants to stay.
“Everything is on track.
“We have the issue of Financial Fair Play, we are in the process of finding the best solution for both parties.”
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The fact Messi is now not a Barcelona player is also bad news for sponsors, such as kit manufacturers Nike who cannot include him in adverts for the time being.
‘Messi 10’ shirts cannot be sold in the club shop, either.
The forward is also likely to be exempt from the Barcelona medical cover so the Nou Camp side would not receive compensation if he picked up an injury.
They will get up to £17,600 per day while Ousmane Dembele recovers from surgery under the Fifa Protection Programme.
Messi is currently with Argentina at the Copa America, preparing for Saturday night’s quarter-final with Ecuador.
Messi officially became a Barca player on January 8, 2001 – a month after the famous initial agreement on a napkin in a restaurant – then signed his first professional terms in June 2005.
But last year he tried to force through an exit by handing in a transfer request.
Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain were poised to battle it out for his signature, with the prospect of linking up with Pep Guardiola again at the Etihad.
But after a dramatic U-turn, Messi honoured his contract to the club he joined aged 13 – although both clubs would surely look to pounce if there were further unanticipated stumbling blocks in the contract negotiations.