Lionel Messi confirmed yesterday that Barcelona’s players will take a 70 per cent pay cut and make financial contributions to ensure the club’s other employees are paid in full during the coronavirus crisis in Spain.
In a lengthy message posted on Instagram, Messi also took another swipe at the Barca board, led by president Josep Maria Bartomeu, whom he accused of undermining the players during recent negotiations.
Other Spanish clubs are expected to follow suit in applying temporary pay cuts, as football’s hiatus due to the virus leaves a number of them fighting for financial survival.
Atletico Madrid have said the club will impose salary reductions on staff whose hours have been affected, while Espanyol have also confirmed pay cuts, although for sporting staff only.
“For our part, the time has come to announce that, as well as the reduction of 70 per cent of our salary during the State of Alarm, we will also make contributions so the club’s employees can collect 100 per cent of their salary while this situation lasts,” Messi wrote.
He added: “We want to clarify that our desire has always been to apply a drop in salary because we fully understand that this is an exceptional situation and we are the first ones who have ALWAYS helped the club when asked.
“Many times we have even done it on our own initiative when we thought it necessary or important.
“Therefore, it never ceases to amaze us that from within the club there were those who tried to put us under the magnifying glass and tried to add pressure to do something that we always knew we would do.”
Messi’s post saw him take centre stage in several newspapers.
France’s L’Equipe likened the 32-year-old to Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara.
The publication superimposed the Barca star’s likeness on the iconic photo of his Argentinian compatriot above the headline, Lionel Messi, the Che of Barca. Madrid-based Marca took a cheekier approach, replacing the 10 on the back of his jersey with “70%”.
Messi’s message was soon posted on the pages of nearly all of his Barcelona teammates, including Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Luis Suarez and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
The relationship between Barca’s players and the board has been tense for several months, with Messi’s public criticism of technical secretary Eric Abidal in February just one of several off-field controversies.
Bartomeu said later yesterday that senior players were on board with taking pay cuts right from the start.
“From the first moment I wanted it be something agreed and not imposed, even if I could do it by law. But we wanted to reach an agreement because it’s best for Barca and shows their commitment,” he told Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo.
“From the first moment, Messi said that this must be done,” he added in an interview with Sport.
Barcelona also said members of “all professional sports teams and most of the basketball team” had agreed to reduce their salaries.