Lionel Messi has confirmed that the World Cup in Qatar next month will be the last of his career. The 35-year-old Argentina star will play in his fifth World Cup but is still seeking his first title at the showpiece tournament.
“There’s some anxiety and nerves at the same time … it is the last one,” Messi said in an interview with Star Plus. It is the first time the Paris Saint-Germain striker has spoken openly about his future after the tournament, which starts on November 20.
Messi did not make it clear whether he would retire from the national team after Qatar. Argentina won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986. The team will open the tournament on November 22 against Saudi Arabia in Group C before facing Mexico and Poland.
I remember in 2006 asking to take one of my exams a few hours earlier in order to be home to watch Argentina vs. Serbia and Montenegro at the World Cup. I did and made it home for the game. Saw the 6-0 win and Lionel Messi make his debut. Crazy we are at Messi’s last World Cup. pic.twitter.com/MzPWZrCScw
— Roy Nemer (@RoyNemer) October 6, 2022
“I don’t know whether we are big favorites, but I believe Argentina is a candidate because of its history, which means even more now because of the way we got here,” Messi added. “But in a World Cup anything can happen, all the matches are very difficult. It isn’t always the favorites who win it.”
‘Barcelona must shed veterans to balance books’
Barcelona won’t be able to reduce its salary burden to sustainable levels until several veteran players finish their contracts, the club’s financial vice president said Thursday. While presenting the budget for this season, Eduard Romeu warned it will likely take another two seasons before Barcelona is able to get its player salary load within manageable limits.
Barcelona’s salaries ballooned to the most expensive in soccer under former club president Josep Bartomeu, and, combined with the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, they put the club in massive debt that it is still clawing its way out of under current president Joan Laporta. Romeu said Barcelona had a net debt of 608 million euros ($597 million) as of June.
“What throws us off is the amount we spend on our player salaries,” Romeu said. “There are a group of (contracts) that have a very important cost and between this season and the next they will disappear.”
When asked if he was referring to the contacts of veterans Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, Romeu said yes. Busquets, who is linked to a move to Major League Soccer, finishes his deal at the end of the season. Pique’s and Alba’s contracts expire in July 2024. All three have multiple Champions League titles, while Pique and Busquets helped Spain win the 2010 World Cup.
In recent seasons, the club has shed the huge salaries of Lionel Messi, Luis Suárez, Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho. But instead of lowering its salary burden, Barcelona increased it this season after acquiring several new players, including Robert Lewandowksi, Jules Koundé and Raphinha. That has increased the total salary burden to 656 million euros ($644 million) for this season, up from 518 million euros ($508 million).
(with PTI inputs)