By Andrew Atkinson

Lionel Messi’s current contract with Barcelona is reportedly worth up to €555m – £492m – over four seasons, thought to be the biggest pay deal ever for an athlete.

Spain’s El Mundo newspaper said it had access to the document the footballing star signed with the Catalan club in 2017, which included fixed incomes and extras that could reach nearly €138m – £122m – each season.

The 33-year-old Argentinian would have to pay about half of that amount in taxes in Spain.

The report said Messi had already secured more than €510m – £452m – of the total contract, which the newspaper said was the most expensive contract ever paid to an athlete.

The leak comes as Barcelona wrestles with a huge debt, largely caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Messi, who has spent his entire career at the club after joining in 2000 as a youth player, sees his contract with the Catalans run out this year.

He had asked to leave with immediate effect at the end of last season, after expressing unhappiness with the direction being taken by the club.

Messi’s U-turn at Barca was as surprising as it was explosive after sending a letter indicating his intention to leave Barcelona in September 2020.

“I wasn’t happy and I wanted to leave,” said Messi.

“I have not been allowed this in any way and I will stay at the club, so as not to get into a legal dispute,” said Messi.

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