Soccer Football - La Liga Santander - FC Barcelona v Celta Vigo - Camp Nou, Barcelona, Spain - May 16, 2021 Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts after Clement Lenglet is sent off REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
Lionel Messi is set to join Paris St Germain after Barcelona were forced to let their Argentine talisman go as they could not afford to give him a new contract under La Liga's salary limit rules, L'Equipe reported on Friday.
Earlier on Friday, PSG manager Mauricio Pochettino said Messi was an "option" that was being evaluated by the Ligue 1 club.
A move to PSG would reunite Messi, who has officially been a free agent since July 1, with his former Barcelona team mate Neymar.
On Thursday, the six-time Ballon d'Or winner left Barcelona despite both parties having reached an agreement over a new contract, citing economic and structural obstacles to the renewal of the deal.
The 34-year-old was expected to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, which would have included a salary reduction of 50%.
Barcelona president Joan Laporta said on Friday that the club was forced to let Messi leave because his high wages coupled with strict La Liga financial rules could have jeopardised its future.
Messi had tried to leave Barcelona in August 2020, making a formal request for an exit after a breakdown in his relationship with then president Josep Maria Bartomeu but successor Laporta, who presided over the Argentine's rise to greatness, convinced him to stay.
Messi has spent his entire professional career at Barcelona, having joined the club's youth set-up aged 13, and went on to score 672 goals in 778 games across all competitions since making his debut in 2003.
PSG have been busy in the off-season, having already brought in Gianluigi Donnarumma from AC Milan, Sergio Ramos from Real Madrid and Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool, all on free transfers. Full back Achraf Hakimi was signed from Inter Milan.
They will begin their new Ligue 1 campaign at newly promoted Troyes on Saturday.
Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar