LIONEL MESSI must agree an even bigger pay cut to return to Barcelona, according to reports.
The Argentine has agreed to halve his enormous wages in order to pen a five-year deal.
But no announcement has yet been made, as Barca still can't afford it.
According to The Athletic, the Catalan club have a spending limit of around £136million imposed by LaLiga – due to £1.3bn worth of liabilities accrued during Josep Maria Bartomeu's ill-fated tenure as club president.
Barca could spend around four times that figure three years ago, but their financial landscape has changed completely.
Consequently, new signings Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero are currently unable to be registered.
And with Messi now a free agent, Barcelona would not be allowed to register him either.
The Argentine, having tried to leave last August, is happier now at Barcelona since Joan Laporta returned as club president in March.
But they still require a huge fire sale in order to keep the 34-year-old on the books.
Matheus Fernandes had his contract terminated, while Jean-Clair Todibo, Carles Alena and Junior Firpo have been sold.
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Samuel Umtiti, Miralem Pjanic, Ousmane Dembele and Philippe Coutinho are all available for transfer.
And they are also in negotiations with Atletico Madrid over swapping £345,000-a-week star Antoine Griezmann for the cheaper Saul Niguez.
Barca have pleaded with LaLiga chiefs to grant them an exemption regarding their economic rules.
But they have been turned down, with league boss Javier Tebas saying: "The decision for Messi to stay is not up to me.
We would be delighted if Barca do that, and Messi stays with us, but it is not something we can resolve for them
"It is up to Barca to resolve their financial situation so they can sign Messi.
"We would be delighted if Barca do that, and Messi stays with us, but it is not something we can resolve for them."
Barcelona could try and get around the rules by offering their No10 a lower salary in the first season of his deal, which would then rise for the 2022-23 campaign, by which time they hope to have their finances in order.
Free agent Messi is currently on holiday with his family after winning the Copa America with Argentina last weekend.
Meanwhile, Barca's club website continue to sell shirts with 'Messi 10' printed on the back – despite him technically not playing for the club anymore.
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