BARCELONA • Lionel Messi ended months of speculation when he finally put pen to paper yesterday to extend his contract with Barcelona until 2021, making official an agreement reached in July.
Barca had announced in the summer that Messi, 30, had committed his future to the club but the Argentinian had not signed the new deal.
With his previous contract set to expire next year, he could have left Barca for free next summer had he not extended his deal.
"FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi signed on Saturday morning a new contract that will keep the Argentinian superstar at the club through the 2020-21 season," read a club statement.
"The buyout clause was set at €700 million (S$1.12 billion)."
The steep rise in the five-time World Player of the Year's buyout clause is designed to avoid any repeat of Paris Saint-Germain's capture of Neymar from Barcelona by paying the Brazilian's €222 million buyout clause in August.
The highest buyout clause, however, stands at €1 billion, currently written in the contracts of Real Madrid duo Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.
Barca first announced an agreement with Messi on July 5, but pressure has been mounting on beleaguered club president Josep Maria Bartomeu to get the player to put pen to paper after a turbulent summer for the Catalans.
Neymar's departure sparked an institutional crisis and Bartomeu was heavily criticised for failing to ward off PSG with a higher buyout clause, amid a haphazard search for replacements in the final weeks of the transfer window.
Bartomeu managed to see off a vote of no confidence launched by disgruntled fans thanks to Barca's fantastic start to the season, in large part inspired by Messi's form.
He has scored 16 goals in 19 games in all competitions this term as Barca lead the LaLiga table.
"Barcelona fans are celebrating. We will continue to enjoy the best player in the history of football," Bartomeu posted on Twitter.
Messi has won 30 trophies at Barcelona and that haul includes eight LaLiga and four Champions League titles.
The diminutive forward, who joined Barca at just 13, has also scored 523 goals in 602 games to become the Catalans' all-time top scorer.
"Obviously, a lot of time has passed and a lot of things have happened, both on and off the pitch since then, but the excitement and desire remains the same," Messi told Spanish sports daily Marca yesterday, a day after picking up his fourth golden boot as the top scorer in Europe last season.
News of Messi's renewal also comes as a huge boost ahead of today's top-of-the-table LaLiga clash at Valencia. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
VALENCIA V BARCELONA
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