A LOOK AT LA LIGA
It's a moral dilemma, we don't want to delve into the pay packet of Lionel Messi, but it is human instinct to have a little peek.
The newspaper El Mundo led with a headline that just looked like a random set of nine numbers this week - 555,237,619. The significance is that is the figure in the contract signed by the Barcelona superstar back in 2017 and I also think it is significant that it is a newspaper and not a sports paper that splashed on the story.
Normally we get our Spanish football news from the likes of Marca or AS but this is a publication where sports is generally a footnote compared to the politics of the country.
Is it right to make public the fact that a footballer has signed a contract worth half a billion euros? Clearly his employers don't think so and we should point out their statement for balance: "FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication."
Yes, it is an invasion of privacy but I'm not quite sure what damage has been done to the football club?
In the long term it will explain why they can't offer him a similar deal when this one expires in June. An institution that is one billion euros in debt can't offer another arrangement which promises 138 million per season with a fee of 115 million for just signing the contract. And this is if he doesn't get a pay rise!
The fans obviously want him to stay, the coach is desperate to keep him, and the marketing department are praying he sees out his days in Catalonia. And the publication of his financial arrangement will be a reality check to the bean counters at Paris Saint Germain and Manchester City.
Messi would improve any team in the world and he earns far more than anyone else because he is far better than everyone else. He gets paid for more than his football talents though. In normal times 10,000 punters pass through the doors of the Camp Nou Museum. The tour ends in the club shop where you feel obliged to take home a gift.
My parents and the Real Madrid star Isco have one thing in common - a dog called Messi and I'm sure he's also bought a dog coat with the footballer's name. There is a whole industry in accessories given extra value if they are marked Messi.
Losing Messi means losing the most dominant footballer in La Liga but also means missing millions of euros, pounds, dollars and every other global currency in lost revenue - it would trigger a fire sale in dog coats.
The incoming Barcelona president, whoever he may be, needs to crunch numbers and come up with a magical figure that appeals to Messi and his financial advisors. It could be argued that he's still the footballer he's always been, in fact he's more important to the team than ever before as Barcelona lean so heavily on him.
The club don't have another 'Galáctico' in their ranks and he is a crowd puller. When fans are allowed back in, they will need to increase the revenue streams. It's only once per season that they are guaranteed to fill the 98,000 stadium and every empty seat equates to lost euros. Image rights are a vital source of income for clubs and a major bargaining tool for the player. Click on any of the Barcelona websites and an image of Messi will jump back at you. The club needs him on and off the pitch.
I'm sure deep down that the Argentinian won't want to uproot his family from their Barcelona base but at least any suitors in Manchester, Miami, Paris or even in China now have a nine-figure number as a starting point.
He hasn't earned all the bonuses, but the ballpark figure is around 511 million euros.
I don't think anyone really understands the rules of Financial Fair Play but justifying 100 million per season when income is limited in these trying times will be impossible. Lionel is going to have to take a pay cut and sell an awful lot of dog accessories to cut a deal with any club.