8:58 AM ET

  • Sam Marsden.
  • Moyce Lawrence.

The former president of FC Barcelona, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has denied any involvement in the leaking of Lionel Messi’s contract to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo.

Messi’s four-year contract, signed in 2017, was published in full on Sunday, revealing that the Barca striker has earned a maximum of 555 million euros over the term of his contract, making him the highest-paid athlete of all time.

Sources have confirmed to ESPN that Messi plans to sue the newspaper and that someone from the Catalan club was involved in leaking the terms.

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Bartomeu left the club last October and his relationship with Messi ended on a sour note, with Messi calling him a liar in several interviews.

It is completely false [that I was involved in the leak], Bartomeu told TV3. This is a very serious problem because leaking a professional contract to the media is completely illegal.

It’s easy to make accusations, but it’s no joke and it will all go to trial. Messi deserves everything he gets, whether for professional or business reasons. Without the pandemic, Barcelona would have been more than able to pay these amounts.

Bartomeu has not yet been replaced as president of Barca, and on the 7th. A membership election will be held in March to determine who will hold the presidency of the association for the next six years.

Two leading candidates, Joan Laporta and Victor Font, voted for Messi following the publication of a report by El Mundo in which the newspaper accused Messi of financially ruining Barca.

Messi has not ruined the club, Laporta told Rake1. It was the previous council that lost all 2016 arguments.

Stories like this show a complete lack of respect for Barca. But given the lack of leadership in a club without a president, such things are easier.

With Barca’s gross debt having risen to €1.2 billion, one wonders if they can afford to keep Messi, who could leave in the summer if they don’t extend his contract.

Barcelona may not be able to keep Lionel Messi because of his high salary. Photo: Alex Caparros/Getty Images

Font, like Laporta, insists it will be a priority for the new president to get Messi to sign a new contract extension, although he has said it is not the end of the world if the Argentina international leaves.

We have to do everything we can to keep Messi, Onde Sero said. That was true in 2017, and it’s still true today. Messi is generating more and more for the club. To say the club is ruined by him is a totally wrong conclusion.

According to El Mundo, Messi will receive a maximum of €555,237,619 ($673,919,105) over four seasons if a number of conditions are met.

Messi received, including image rights, a €115m extension bonus and a €77m loyalty bonus spread over two payments, according to the report – which was revealed by ESPN in November.

Messi also earns around 72 million euros a year, in addition to the bonuses he receives if he takes part in more than 60 percent of the season’s games, is promoted to the Champions League, wins the La Liga or the Copa del Rey and becomes FIFA’s best player.

Barca coach Ronald Koeman said the contract had been made public with malicious intent to harm the club and Messi, adding that if anyone at the club was behind it, he should have no future at Barcelona.

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