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After 17 Seasons With FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi Is Leaving

In this 2019 file photo, Lionel Messi waves at the crowd as he holds the trophy of the best Spanish La Liga player prior to a soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona says Lionel Messi will not stay with the club.
In this 2019 file photo, Lionel Messi waves at the crowd as he holds the trophy of the best Spanish La Liga player prior to a soccer match between FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona says Lionel Messi will not stay with the club.

Updated August 5, 2021 at 6:29 PM ET

It's official: Argentine soccer player Lionel Messi will leave FC Barcelona.

Soccer league La Liga's limits on spending made it impossible for the club, whose spending far exceeded the limit, to make an agreement with Messi. The club would have needed to completely restructure its finances.

Messi's departure comes less than a month after he and Barcelona verbally agreed to a five-year deal, which included a substantial pay cut for Messi.

"Despite having reached an agreement between FC Barcelona and Leo Messi and with the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, it cannot be formalized due to economic and structural obstacles (in Spanish LaLiga regulations)," FC Barcelona said in a statement. "Faced with this situation, Lionel Messi will not continue linked to FC Barcelona."

Messi, one of the top players in soccer history, had expressed frustration with the Spanish soccer club last August, when he stated that he wanted to leave Barcelona. The 34-year-old ended his 21-year contract with the club in June and has been a free agent since July 1.

Messi joined Barca's academy at age 13 and has played 778 games for the club — a record number of appearances. He has scored 672 goals, another record, and has helped the team win 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League four times. He has won the Ballon d'Or six times.

Josie Fischels is an intern on NPR's News Desk.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.