Lionel Messi officially a free agent, but Barcelona remains hopeful of re-signing superstar

Lionel Messi is officially off-contract with a new deal with Barcelona being negotiated.

Lionel Messi is officially off-contract with a new deal with Barcelona being negotiated. Photo: AP

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi is officially a free agent with his Barcelona contract expiring but the president of the Catalan club says they are in the process of negotiating a new deal.

The 34-year-old Argentina international’s Barca contract expired on June 30, amid speculation of a move away from Camp Nou that he has called home since 2000.

Barcelona president Joan Laporta conceded the situation was not ideal but said negotiations were ongoing.

“We are doing well, but you have to fit a deal into the financial fair play,” Laporta told reporters on Wednesday.

“We want him to stay and we are excited for him to stay. I wish I could tell you that Leo is staying but I can’t say yet.

“We are in the process of finding the solution.”

Messi expressed a desire to leave Barcelona last off-season, with a growing dissatisfaction with the direction of the club on and off the field.

He remained with Barcelona bound by a clause in his contract, referred to by former president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who has since been replaced by Laporta.

Messi’s previous contract, signed in 2017, was worth 555 million euros ($880 million) over four seasons.

He is widely expected to stay at Barca, which has spent the past 18 months attempting to trim its wage bill, having been significantly affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This off-season Barca has added Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia to its squad.

Messi is in Brazil with Argentina competing at Copa America.

He has won 10 La Liga and four Champions League titles during his time at Barcelona, although it has not won the domestic league since 2019 and the continental crown since 2015.

Messi has received a cheeky approach from boyhood club Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina.

“Hi Leo, are you there? In Argentina it is just now July 1 … [Nothing ventured nothing gained]” Newell’s tweeted.

They issued the thinly veiled invitation using a photograph of Messi in a Newell’s shirt.

It was a picture taken when Messi paid an emotional tribute to the late Diego Maradona, who briefly played for the Argentine club in the 1993-94 season.

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