Lionel Messi's Barcelona contract is the biggest in the history of sport, landing the superstar forward more than €555million over four years.

That is the astonishing claim made by El Mundo, with the Spanish newspaper reporting on Sunday that it had obtained details of the deal signed by the 33-year-old in 2017.

The mega-money agreement, which expires in June this year, would see Messi receive up to €555,237,619 across four seasons, providing a number of conditions are met.

Messi was at the centre of a major transfer storm when he attempted to force a move away from Camp Nou last August, but was left frustrated when Barca refused to sanction an exit.

Amid a fraught presidential election campaign, it has remained apparent that all is not well at the Catalan club, whose financial worries are cast in a fresh light after El Mundo's stunning front-page revelations, with the outlet claiming to have laid hands on a copy of "the most sought-after document".

In addition to annual earnings in excess of €138m – dependent on some variables – the report says Messi received a renewal fee of over €115m, and a loyalty bonus just shy of €78m.

The Argentina international, who also rakes in millions in image rights, is said to have earned more than €500m from the eye-watering deal so far.

Barca's accounts for the 2019-20 season showed gross debt had reached €820m, with the coronavirus pandemic having further dented their outlook.

Against the backdrop of those financial woes, Messi's desire to leave, and with a fractious presidential election not due to be concluded until March, Barca are still off the pace in LaLiga despite a run of four consecutive top-flight wins.

Ronald Koeman's side are 10 points behind leaders Atletico Madrid ahead of Sunday's visit of Athletic Bilbao.

Messi, who was red carded for the first time in his career earlier this month, has contributed 15 goals in all competitions.

Ronald Araujo says he is inspired by Gerard Pique as he bids to carve out a lasting career at Barcelona. 

The 21-year-old Uruguayan has played in 10 LaLiga games already this season after featuring in just six during his debut campaign for the Catalan giants in 2019-20. 

In those appearances he has completed eight blocks – three more than any other Barca player – made the second highest number of clearances (29) and has yet to be dribbled past by an opponent. 

His displays have earned him comparisons with club icon Pique and Araujo admits he looks to the 33-year-old, who has made 553 appearances for Barca, for inspiration. 

"His experience has always been one thing that I have looked at since I arrived and more now that I share a dressing room with him," he told Mundo Deportivo. 

"I like to look at the characteristics of each player but from Gerard I like to look at how he plays with the ball, which is something that I felt was missing from my play, and also that he is a defender who is not very fast but is always well positioned. 

"I pay attention to that a lot. Every day I try to get a little information out of him in every game and in every training session."

Araujo also praised the influence of goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, adding: "Marc speaks to me a lot, how to position myself or have peace of mind to play with the ball.

"Marc is very important and I always emphasise that he is always talking to us and is very important to us. 

"When he gives us the ball he already tells us where the opponent is coming from because he is looking straight ahead and these are very important references for us."

Araujo joined from Uruguayan side Boston River in August 2018 and is already thinking about spending the next decade at a club that has made a significant impact on him.  

"I work to be able to be here for many years, it is one of my goals and something that I would like," he said. 

"I really like Barca and everything that Barca is and I want to be here for many years. If there is the possibility of being here for 10 years I would be very happy. And then the rest, one day being a captain or whatever, that will come by itself. 

"The important thing is to continue being me and doing what I do every game and every training session and helping the team because it is my way of helping us to be connected and I myself feel connected when I am talking all the time. I can concentrate and I know that I help my colleagues."

Ronald Koeman's Barca, who are 10 points adrift of LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Luis Suarez is "blowing up LaLiga" to prove to Barcelona that he is not finished, according to Gustavo Poyet.

Barca made the decision to allow Suarez to leave in the close-season after a successful six-year stay at Camp Nou.

Domestic rivals Atletico Madrid moved swiftly to sign him on a two-year contract in September and have reaped the rewards.

Uruguay international Suarez has scored 12 goals in 15 league games, adding two assists, and his side sat seven points clear at the top of the table heading into the weekend's top-flight action.

His compatriot Poyet, who formerly starred with Real Zaragoza, Chelsea and Tottenham, believes Suarez has been desperate to show he is not past his best, having turned 34 this month.

Discussing why he thinks Atletico are title favourites, Poyet told Stats Perform News: "They took a very important decision which would not be easy for some people.

"It was easy for El Cholo [head coach Diego Simeone], from what I know of him.

"Bringing in Luis Suarez as Barcelona didn't want him, bring him in now. And Luis went with his mentality, 'I will show you who I am'.

"A bit like a Uruguayan I am, 'You don't want me? Am I over? Let’s see!'. 

"And this is blowing up LaLiga."

Leaving Barcelona gave Suarez the push he needed to make changes and give something extra, in the view of Poyet.

He added: "What it shows is that sometimes football players need something different, just something.

"It can be a different treatment or being tougher [on them]. But they need something to react to.

"He was low, not bad, but like the [Barcelona] team, he was low. He needed a new challenge and sometimes it is tough to get it in the same club.

"It can happen with arrival of a new manager, or signing a new player who becomes a rival of yours. There are different ways, but if it does not happen, it looks difficult.

"However, there is no doubt that joining such a special team like Atletico with such a special coach, similar character [to Suarez], you get it and he is showing that extra [effort] needed.

"Sometimes we all need to realise. Get out from the club and notice that you have to do something to change the situation.

"I was not doubtful on his performance, especially playing in that system and having that responsibility.

"I don't forget it that it was him or Diego Costa [playing] at the beginning, sometimes both together. But at the time, Costa had gone, with all the respect to other players, it was only Luis Suarez.

"That also gives him the responsibility on scoring 20 to 30 goals and Luis accepts it in a natural way."

Atletico play away to Cadiz on Sunday and Poyet was asked if he thinks they can finish the job and win the title in the second half of the season.

"I do, for two reasons," he replied. "First, they are very strong, all credit to them, and also, because Real Madrid and Barcelona are currently really poor.

"I don't see any consistency in any of them. Unfortunately, when I look at Barcelona or Real Madrid I don't know what to expect from them, I don't know what is going to happen.

"And that proves it is a year for other teams like Atletico Madrid of El Cholo to go the distance, to actually show they belong at the top without any falling.

"We will see how they can keep it up. We know everything can change with injuries, sending-offs, everything can become really difficult. But no doubts, the main candidate is Atletico Madrid."

Barcelona are not ready to win the biggest trophies and fans must be "realistic" about their title chances, head coach Ronald Koeman said.

The Catalans face Athletic Bilbao on Sunday for the first time since suffering defeat to Marcelino's side in the final of the Supercopa de Espana.

Barca go into the match 10 points behind LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, who have a game in hand. Their tally of 37 points from their first 19 matches is their lowest return at this stage of a season since 2003-04.

According to a Stats Perform AI model run last week, Barca had just a 12.4 per cent likelihood of winning LaLiga, with Atletico overwhelming favourites at 75.1 per cent.

Having won just twice in their past seven meetings with Athletic in all competitions, the pressure is on Barca and Koeman to deliver to keep their slim hopes of a title challenge intact.

However, the former Netherlands boss feels this has been a year of transition for the club that means they should not aim too high.

"It's tough, because the points gap is very big," he said on Saturday. "In the Champions League, there's no clear favourite. We have a knockout against Paris Saint-Germain that we'll try to get through.

"I have said several times that this is a season where we are changing things, we are opting for young players.

"Barcelona are not about to win a lot of things right now. We have to be realistic about where we've come from, the changes we've made... not everything depends on one player. We always have to be ready to fight, but we have to be realistic."

With Barca having reported debts of close to €1.2billion and with presidential elections not taking place until March, January signings have been practically impossible.

The club remain hopeful, however, of bringing in Eric Garcia from Manchester City this month. The defender has already agreed to a deal with the club but they are exploring options to sign him in the coming days rather than wait for a free transfer at the end of the season, when his City contract expires.

"It's always important to have someone at the club working to improve our squad, if not in January for next year," Koeman said.

"It doesn't bother me because it's a job the club has to do. The players don't have to be bothered by these issues, because we talk to them every day, they take part in the games.... These things happen at any club in the world and I don't see any problem.

"We'll certainly have him [Garcia] for next season. If it's not possible for him to come now, we have to accept it and we'll keep going with what there is.

"But I don't know. I don't want to spend energy on this and I'm just focused on preparing the team for the games.

"I spoke to [City manager] Pep [Guardiola] a little while ago to wish him a happy 50th birthday. We talked, but we don't do so on Eric Garcia. That's not my job. I'm dedicated to coaching.

"I think it's normal that it's talked about so much because it's a transfer and because of the circumstances around the club. I've said what I thought, but what ends up happening is something I can't control, so I'm focused on what's important, which is trying to win games."

Kylian Mbappe's future continues to dominate headlines.

For so long, Real Madrid have been favourites to prise Mbappe to the Santiago Bernabeu.

But Premier League champions Liverpool are believed to be stepping up their pursuit.

 

TOP STORY – LIVERPOOL FRONTRUNNERS FOR MBAPPE

Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid in the race to sign Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe , according to Canal+ show Late Football Club.

Mbappe has been tipped to leave Ligue 1 champions PSG for LaLiga holders Madrid at the end of the season.

But Liverpool are reportedly the frontrunners to prise the France World Cup winner to Anfield amid doubts over Mohamed Salah 's future.

 

ROUND-UP

- Marca says Madrid are preparing for the departure of Sergio Ramos as their star captain nears an exit. The soon-to-be free agent has been linked with the likes of PSG , Juventus , Manchester United and Manchester City .

- Will Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Inter's Alexis Sanchez swap clubs? Sky Sport Italia reports an exchange deal could be set to collapse. City reportedly turned down a chance to re-sign Dzeko, who has a fractured relationship with Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca.

Milan are continuing to target Palmeiras and Uruguayan defender Matias Vina , says Calciomercato.

- Cadena Cope reports PSG want to sign Barcelona defender Emerson , who is on loan at Real Betis.

- Sport Bild journalist Christian Falk says United are interested in RB Leipzig defender Dayot Upamecano , but Bayern Munich lead the race to secure his services at season's end. Upamecano has also been linked to the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool .

- Falk also confirmed that Leipzig defender Ibrahima Konate has a release clause in excess of €40million (£35m) amid interest from United , Liverpool and Tottenham .

United are eyeing Barca's Ousmane Dembele if Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho does not arrive ahead of the 2021-22 campaign, according to Falk.

Barcelona made a mistake not selling superstar captain Lionel Messi at the start of the season, according to Rivaldo.

Messi is out of contract at the end of the current campaign and the record six-time Ballon d'Or winner appears likely to leave on a free transfer amid strong links to Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City.

The 33-year-old attacker had tried to exit Camp Nou prior to the start of 2020-21 before opting to remain with the LaLiga giants.

As Barca struggle financially amid the coronavirus pandemic, former star Rivaldo wrote in his Betfair column: "Barcelona were not in good financial health pre-pandemic, but things got nasty in the last year and beyond Lionel Messi's almost inevitable departure, the club may need to sell some more important players to generate income.

"As I mentioned previously, the club's board made a mistake by not selling Lionel Messi while he was still under contract, something Real Madrid did with Cristiano Ronaldo receiving around €100million in exchange [from transfer to Juventus].

"It's sad to see such a talented and valuable player leaving Barca for free when the club is going through so many financial problems.

"But looking to potential transfers that might occur, I think Phillipe Coutinho time may have be coming to an end. He has admirers in England and perhaps Barcelona could generate some good income with his sale, allowing them to keep others like Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann.

"The Brazilian never managed to show his best football in Spain, and since his better moments happened in Premier League I'm sure there will be clubs interested in his services and available to pay considerable amounts, although not quite what Barcelona paid to Liverpool!"

Barca are third in the table and 10 points adrift of leaders Atletico Madrid as they prepare to host Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

Athletic stunned Messi's Barca in the Supercopa de Espana final earlier this month.

Pep Guardiola has criticised candidates in the Barcelona presidential race for talking too much about Manchester City defender Eric Garcia.

Spain international Garcia has long been linked with a return to his boyhood club since failing to agree an extension to his contract at the Etihad Stadium last year.

The 20-year-old centre-back's terms expire at the end of this season, when signing him on a free transfer might be the most prudent course of action for a financially embattled Barca.

One of the candidates, Toni Freixa, said this is the likely conclusion to the saga, although Victor Font this week claimed Garcia would go unpaid for the rest of the season in order to force through a move.

Acting Barca president Carles Tusquets does not have the authority to sign players during this window after the presidential election was delayed until March 7, adding another layer of complication.

Guardiola has already stated he is "pretty sure" Garcia will leave City when the 2020-21 campaign concludes, although there was a weariness when he addressed the matter once more as the Premier League leaders prepare to host Sheffield United.

"I don't want to talk anything about this case because the people talk much," he said, in comments apparently directed towards Freixa and Font, who are standing against his old boss at Camp Nou, Joan Laporta.

"He's our player, the transfer window finishes in a few days.

"We are fully committed with him while he is here because is an exceptional player and guy and that's all."

Saturday's top-versus-bottom clash at the Etihad Stadium threatens to be more competitive than billed if events this midweek on the other side of Manchester are anything to go by.

Chris Wilder's Sheffield United claimed only their second top-flight win of the season, stunning Manchester United 2-1 in a result that means City are in first place at the end of a round of fixtures for the first time this term.

"Of what I saw before the United game, Sheffield United is a team that is alive. [You can tell] from their body language," said Guardiola.

"It is not easy with the results they have got this season and that speaks incredibly well about Chris, his staff and the players.

"The result against United speaks for itself. Everybody knows how difficult it is to win at Old Trafford."

The Blades remain bottom, three points behind a West Brom side City thumped 5-0 last time out and 10 points from safety.

Nevertheless, Guardiola believes they have a chance of survival and is wary of a team his men edged past 1-0 in their previous two meetings, both of which were at Bramall Lane.

"I think the reason why they are still a team and they are alive is because they are together for a long time with the same manager and they believe each other a lot," he said.

"That is why they were able to do what they did a few days ago. But it is an opportunity to try to play good again and win the game."

Guardiola added: "To play Sheffield, it is always uncomfortable to us, that system, the 5-3-2, it is difficult to attack, that is why I’m a little bit concerned about the game."

Barcelona have been drawn away to Granada in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals.

Ronald Koeman's team fought back to defeat second-tier Rayo Vallecano 2-1 on Wednesday, earning their place in the last eight after a major scare.

Barca will now have to face a LaLiga team in Granada, a side they defeated 4-0 at Los Carmenes earlier this month.  

Sevilla, who have not won the competition since 2010, will play away to Almeria, the last team from outside the top flight left in the tournament.

Real Betis will take on Athletic Bilbao, who are yet to play Real Sociedad in the final of last season's Copa, while the other match will see Levante host Villarreal.

Ties will be played across next week from Tuesday to Thursday, with Barca favourites to win it after Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid were eliminated against lower-league opposition.

Mauricio Pochettino denied he had turned down chances to coach Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Pochettino has been linked with the LaLiga giants previously, although he took over at Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the month.

But Pochettino said reports he had turned down Madrid and Barcelona were untrue.

"This is not the case, although there was a lot of talk at the time," he told Marca.

"We have a lot of respect for the teams that may have been interested in our staff.

"It wasn't like that and of course I have been approached by clubs, but the one we received with love was from PSG. And this is the ideal project."

After spells in charge of Espanyol and Southampton, Pochettino was at the helm of Tottenham for five and a half years before being sacked in November 2019.

He has overseen four wins in five games since taking charge of PSG, who are top of Ligue 1 ahead of visiting Lorient on Sunday.

Paris Saint-Germain boss Mauricio Pochettino said every coach in the world would want a player of Lionel Messi's quality at their disposal.

Messi, 33, is out of contract at Barcelona at the end of the season and the six-time Ballon d'Or has been heavily linked to PSG and Manchester City.

Pochettino only took over at PSG at the start of the month but is already facing questions over Messi's potential arrival.

The former Tottenham boss, though, said every coach in the world would want Messi.

"Sometimes words are unnecessary. With the question you ask me, everything is understood," Pochettino told AS.

"What coach in the world would not want to have a player of the calibre of which you are telling me? I totally understand the question, but it is looking for a controversy.

"It is a dangerous question if a word of mine is taken out of context … Pochettino will come disrespectfully, Pochettino talks about this, Pochettino talks about that."

Pochettino has previously spoken of the bond he shares with Messi thanks to their connection to Newell's Old Boys, where both were in the youth system.

While the 48-year-old paid tribute to Messi, he is also preparing to meet the star forward when PSG face Barcelona in the Champions League last 16.

"There is nothing left to say. I respect and admire him so much that I prefer never to say anything or refer to him. It is the best tribute you can do to someone," Pochettino said. 

"We share the two of us who have worn the Newell's jersey and that is something very big. That bond unites us. 

"That he is one of the best players of all time I will not discover and when we meet we will fight for our interests."

Kylian Mbappe will be at Paris Saint-Germain "for many years to come", according to head coach Mauricio Pochettino.

Real Madrid have been heavily linked with a move for World Cup-winning attacker Mbappe, whose contract with PSG is due to expire at the end of next season.

The 22-year-old has scored 106 goals and set up a further 54 in 147 appearances for PSG. Since his debut for the club on September 8, 2017, the only players in the top five European Leagues to have registered more goal involvements are Robert Lewandowski (184) and Lionel Messi (205).

Mbappe is in talks with the club about a renewal but has never hidden his admiration for Madrid boss Zinedine Zidane.

Pochettino is not worried, though, and believes Mbappe's future is at the Parc des Princes.

"Who doesn't love Kylian? He makes himself loved, with his smile, his face and his energy," Pochettino told Marca.

"At the age of 19 he was a world champion [with France], impressive things have happened to him, but he is special and different, with a lot of emotional intelligence.

"He has a lot of potential to develop but he is already [someone for the] present, not just the future. It's a challenge and a good thing to work with this kind of talent, it makes you a better coach. You give this type of player a solution and he gives you five back.

"There are a lot of rumours, but I think he will be at PSG for many years to come, and that's the club's hope. We are counting on him for as long as we are here.

"It's true that he has to make a decision [on his future], but he seems happy and very committed to this project."

PSG are open to the possibility of signing Messi from Barcelona, with the six-time Ballon d'Or winner able to leave Camp Nou on a free at the end of the season.

Asked if having Messi in his team would make him a better coach, Pochettino replied: "Whatever I say will be misunderstood, and I love what I have. Great footballers fit in any league and any team."

He was far more forthcoming when discussing Sergio Ramos, another high-profile player that will be a free agent at the conclusion of the campaign if he does not sign an extension with Madrid.

"After one month [at PSG] I am finding players with great leadership. The great [players] are able to play and coexist in different projects and cultures, but I am very respectful," said Pochettino.

"PSG's strategy has been the same for years, ever since we signed Ronaldinho: to look at market opportunities and bring in those who can improve what we have. We will see in the coming months.

"Here, Ramos would find a great club with the obsession to always win. PSG are one of the biggest [clubs] in the world."

Barcelona head coach Ronald Koeman said his team are trying to win the Copa del Rey as they attempt to overhaul LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid.

Barca came from behind to beat second-tier side Rayo Vallecano 2-1 in Wednesday's last-16 showdown in the Copa del Rey.

Fran Garcia gave Vallecano a 63rd-minute lead before Lionel Messi equalised six minutes later and Frenkie de Jong completed Barca's comeback 10 minutes from time midweek.

It has been a challenging season for Barca amid doubts over Messi's future, the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and a struggle for form as the Spanish giants sit third and 10 points behind Atletico, while they also lost the Supercopa de Espana final.

But Koeman and Barca remain focused on the goal of silverware, with the Catalan club set to face Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League round of 16.

"I am very happy," Koeman said post-match after reaching the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey. "From the beginning we played a good game. In the first part we forgave them on several occasions, in the last pass, there were plays in which there could be penalties.

"Yes, we had problems in the first half. In the second one, especially with the score against, I think we've showed our personality, scoring quality goals, we came back in the game. At the end you always suffer with such a tight result with just one goal difference. Overall, the team played very well.

"We know these are complicated games, it does not matter the category of the opponent. They played a great game, they complicated us. But, in the first half we forgave them, we should've scored one or two goals."

"Our goal is to go game by game, try to win every game in order to try to move up in the table," Koeman added. "Cut the gap we have now [in the league], play in the Champions League.

"We want to win the Copa [del Rey]. I think this is the mentality our team has shown in all competitions and try to get the most out of it. It is important, we are Barca, but there are no easy games.

"We know how the Copa games are, it doesn't depend on the category of your opponent. You have to work a lot and play well. The field was not very good to play our game. Despite the state of the field, we played a very good game. Also, the team had the right mentality to overcome this play-off."

Barcelona booked their place in the Copa del Rey quarter-finals as goals from Lionel Messi and Frenkie de Jong sealed a 2-1 win over Rayo Vallecano on Wednesday. 

Ronald Koeman's side had looked set to follow Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in losing to lower-league opposition when Fran Garcia gave Segunda Division side Rayo the lead shortly after the hour-mark. 

As is so often the case, though, Messi pulled Barca level soon after with a close-range finish. 

That set the stage for the impressive De Jong to secure Barca's progression 10 minutes from time.

The first clear sight of goal did not come until the 20th minute, De Jong looping an effort from six yards onto Stole Dimitrievski's crossbar.

The visitors somehow failed to take the lead 10 minutes before the interval when Dimitrievski initially pawed away Trincao's strike before Riqui Puig's follow-up was diverted onto the crossbar by Ivan Martos.

Antoine Griezmann and De Jong had further chances, but Barca were ultimately unable to make their superiority count at the break.

Messi clipped the top of the crossbar with a free-kick three minutes after the restart before the Argentina international blazed over after being played clean through soon after.

Barca were made to rue those misses in the 63rd minute when Fran Garcia turned home from almost on the line after Neto had parried Alvaro Garcia's cross into his path.

Messi restored parity six minutes later, however, sliding in from six yards after being teed up by Griezmann.

De Jong ensured there would be no need for extra time to settle the result, stroking home from a similar position to Messi from Jordi Alba's cross.

Paris Saint-Germain have disrespected Barcelona by publicly discussing a move for Lionel Messi and the Spanish club should take action, says Joan Laporta.  

Messi's future remains unclear as his contract at Barcelona continues to wind down. The talismanic forward was linked with Manchester City having made clear his desire to leave in the previous transfer window, though he ended up remaining at Camp Nou to see out his current deal.  

Negotiations over a renewal are not helped by the uncertainty over the identity of the next president at the Spanish club, though an election date is now set for March 7.  

Laporta is one of the remaining candidates in the running and has made clear the importance of making Messi an offer that helps convince him to stay – and is not happy with how PSG have talked about potentially signing the 33-year-old.  

Leonardo, sporting director at the Ligue 1 champions, said this month that "great players like Messi will always be on PSG's list", his comment coming after ex-Barca player Neymar fuelled speculation last December by declaring his desire to play alongside his former team-mate again in 2021.

"The club has to be able to make a good proposal to Messi so that he understands and accepts it," Laporta - previously Barca president between 2003 and 2010 - told the media on Wednesday. 

"I would understand any response from Leo. He has to know the situation of the club and this is urgent. The situation is consolidating; he is free to negotiate with another club, and Barcelona are without a president. 

"PSG allow themselves to publicly say they want to sign Messi. Barcelona cannot allow this. It is disrespectful, even more so coming from a club-state that breaks the rules.

"We have to work with UEFA and FIFA on this. PSG must abstain from [talking about Messi]. It is out of place for another club to speak about him - and there is no president to respond."

Laporta also made clear his position over the potential signing of Eric Garcia, the Manchester City centre-back strongly linked with a return to Spain.

A January move has been rumoured but Barca's financial troubles may make a deal difficult, particularly with the player set to be out of contract at the end of the season.

"I remain in the position I had when this possibility was raised. If a player wants to come to Barca, he has to prove it and if in June he would come for free," Laporta said in reference to the defender.

"It is hard for me to understand why we would have to give money to a competing club.

"I do not understand that the manager attributes the power to negotiate a salary or to pay money now when in June it would not have to be paid, even more so taking into account the economic situation of the club."

Eric Garcia would be willing to go unpaid for the rest of the season to force through a protracted return to Barcelona from Manchester City this month, according to Blaugrana presidential candidate Victor Font.

Garcia, 20, came through Barca's La Masia academy before being snapped up by City in 2017, subsequently making the breakthrough into the club's first-team squad.

Although he made 20 appearances across all competitions last term as he began to establish himself, Garcia delayed signing a new contract and now looks set to leave by the end of the season when his deal expires.

Pep Guardiola has already accepted Garcia will likely leave, but Barca's acting president Carles Tusquets does not have the authority to sign players, with the delayed election set to take place on March 7.

Media reports claim Tusquets and the three presidential candidates had previously agreed to wait until the end of Garcia's contract to sign him, such is the club's crippling financial state.

But now Font is urging the acting board to bring plans forward and meet City's €3million asking price, adamant he could significantly improve the team's chances of winning trophies this term.

"Eric Garcia is willing to make an effort and not get paid this season. He is crazy about coming immediately, he is committed and eager to play," Font told a news conference on Wednesday.

"The steps we have taken allow us to understand that the incorporation of Eric Garcia is possible for now, the club can take it on financially.

"Ronald Koeman and our sports structure consider his signing fundamental to aspire to all the titles this year. From here we ask that the management board make the decision to sign Eric this week."

Financial records dating back to August last year were recently uncovered and revealed Barca's debts topped €1billion, with their financial woes a key talking point in the various presidential campaigns.

While Joan Laporta – the favourite to succeed Josep Maria Bartomeu as president – previously said signing Garcia this month is not possible due to Barca's debts, Font claims the club are in a position to sanction the move.

"If he is willing not to charge this season, why don't we incorporate him? City accepts €3m plus variables," Font continued. "The impact on Barca's accounts would be €230,000 of amortisation. How do we motivate Koeman if the only request he has is denied?

"There is a European Championship in the summer. Eric having minutes is essential so that Luis Enrique can count on him in the national team.

"There is no formal agreement with City but we have made the necessary arrangements so that if Oscar Grau [Barca CEO] calls City, he can verify that they are true - the conditions of €3m fixed, plus variables."

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