Barcelona paycut controversy underscores tensions facing Lionel Messi and his teammates

Lionel Messi and his Barcelona teammates have agreed to take a 70 percent cut in pay to help alleviate the financial strain at Barcelona during the current pandemic that has hit Spain very hard and make other contributions to allow Barcelona employees in non-sporting departments to keep their jobs.

The move covers not only Messi and the other first-team Barca players but players on the many other sports teams the Catalan club sponsors.

But Messi went out of his way to reject the reports in the Catalan sports press that he and his players were reluctant to accept the cuts. In an Instagram post, he wrote and was supported by his teammates:

"We want to clarify that our desire has always been for a reduction to be applied to our salaries because we understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are the first that have ALWAYS helped the club with what they have asked of us.

"Many times we have even done things on our own accord, at moments when we felt it necessary or important to do so.

"For that reason, it doesn't cease to surprise us that from inside the club there would be people that want to put us under a magnifying glass or try to pressure us into something that we were always clear we wanted to do. In fact, if the agreement has dragged on, it's because we were looking for a formula to help the club and its workers in these difficult times.

"For our part, the moment has arrived to announce that, aside from the 70% wage cut during the state of emergency, we are going to also make contributions so that all the club's employees can earn 100% of their salaries for as long as this situation lasts."

Barcelona is in first place in LaLiga and is still alive in the UEFA Champions League but it has been a difficult season that culminated in the firing of head coach Ernesto Valverde in January.

The division between Barca management and its players grew when sporting director Eric Abidal said players didn't work hard enough under Valverde without naming names.

Next year is an election year -- Barcelona is owned and operated by its socios -- and Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is facing a challenge from Victor Font. Former players Xavi, who is finishing up his career in Qatar, Carles Puyol and Jordi Cruyff appear to be waiting in the wings for the chance to lead Barca.

Barcelona has managed a spectacular run -- 10 LaLiga and four Champions League titles in 15 seasons since Messi debuted during the 2004-05 season -- but Messi won't be around forever.

Even before the pandemic swept Spain, Font said Barcelona needed to prepare for the future because it lacks the deep pockets of billionaire owners, like those that control the top clubs in England. It generated a record revenue of $959.3 million in 2018-19 but could take a huge hit from the pandemic.
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