LONDON • Lionel Messi will take football salaries to an extraordinary new level when he formally agrees a vastly improved four-year contract later this month.
Barcelona are to pay their most important player a basic wage worth more than £1 million (S$1.7 million) a week.
Messi's gross salary under the agreement announced by Barca has been set at an annual €62 million, according to a club source.
If the contract runs for its full term - by which stage the Argentinian international will be 34 - Barca are committed to paying him £220 million, before performance-related bonuses.
Although Messi has been consistently courted by well-heeled suitors in Europe and Asia, Barca insist the decision to hand him football's most lucrative playing contract was instigated by them.
They reason that the sum is a fairer reflection of Messi's ability to generate income for the club.
Barcelona delivered total revenues of €620.2 million last year, the second highest in football after Manchester United.
Last season, the club budgeted an income of €695 million, and according to its own analysis, Messi contributed 20 per cent of that figure.
There is also a political element to the effort to keep the 30-year-old maestro happy with his new deal, retaining his status as Camp Nou's talisman and out of the reach of avaricious rivals such as Manchester City.
While Sandro Rosell, the club's president between 2010 and 2014, had intended to cash in on Messi's value in the transfer market and promote Neymar as his on-field successor, the current regime, led by Josep Maria Bartomeu, has scrapped that strategy.
Instead, there is a recognition of Messi's fundamental importance, both to the team and to the club members who elect the board.
Barca's move to elevate Messi's basic salary significantly beyond the £365,000-a-week after tax that Real Madrid pay Cristiano Ronaldo may also serve to complicate their arch-rival's effort to keep their own leading scorer in LaLiga.
THE TIMES, LONDON