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Finally, an answer to “Why hasn’t Messi signed a new contract?”

FC Barcelona v RCD Espanyol - La Liga

BARCELONA, SPAIN - DECEMBER 18: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at the Camp Nou stadium on December 18, 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

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Lionel Messi’s current Barcelona contract has just 18 months left to run before expiration, which means, in theory in theory in theory, every soccer club in the world could be competing with one another to sign Messi as an impending free agent 12 months from right now.

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The question, “How in the world have Barcelona allowed his contract to creep that close to expiring?” has been a hot topic for discussion going on a full year now. Finally, a concrete answer has emerged, as Barcelona chief executive Oscar Grau connected a pair of dates this week: the La Liga rule that stipulates a club can spend no more than 70 percent of its annual budget on player wages, and an admission that offering Messi (current contract: $23 million) a new contract right now — so shortly after re-signing Neymar and Luis Suarez ($26.5 million) — would put the club over that 70-percent threshold. Oops.

Here’s Grau with the meat-and-potatoes explanation — quotes from the Guardian:

“Barcelona has to analyse this situation with a cold head and common sense. Barca can’t exceed 70 percent of its budget on wages and therefore we have to make the numbers add up.”

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Translation: Barcelona have to, either: 1) create an additional revenue stream that’ll generate tens of millions of dollars in order to offer a contract befitting the greatest player of all time; or, 2) convince Messi that he makes enough money through endorsements and other ventures, thus he can afford to take the “hometown” discount in order to make the numbers work.

Ahem. Good luck with no. 2, Barca.

Follow @AndyEdMLS