Barcelona say they could take legal action against Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it published details of Lionel Messi’s contract with the Spanish giants.
El Mundo carried the details of Messi’s 555 million euros ($A880m) contract in its Sunday edition, breaking down the amount of money the 33-year-old could earn during the four-year deal signed in November 2017.
Barcelona denied any responsibility for leaking the details of the agreement – which is the richest in sports history.
“The club regrets its publication given that it’s a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties,” the club said in a statement.
“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take the appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result.”
Various Spanish media outlets reported on Sunday that Messi, who has not made any comments about the report, is also considering taking legal action against El Mundo.
Barcelona expressed its “absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the entity where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”
Barcelona coach Ronald Koeman defended Messi in comments on Sunday after the team’s La Liga win over Athletic Bilbao.
“What has come out is intended to damage him. Messi deserves respect,” Koeman said.
“I don’t understand how you can associate Messi with Barcelona’s problems.
“He has been showing his quality as a player for many years and has helped make this club great.
“We have to try to find out how this got to the press.
“If it turns out to be someone on the inside then that is very bad and they should have no future at the club.”
The leak comes as Barcelona – who are led by a caretaker board since president Josep Bartomeu resigned in October while facing a no-confidence motion – attempt to manage a huge debt that is in excess of one billion euros ($A1.6b), created mostly because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Messi is set to decide in the coming months whether he wants to stay at Barcelona, who he joined as a 13-year-old, or leave the club, as he attempted to do last year before a change of heart.