LIONEL MESSI is actually earning Barcelona an annual profit of up to £150million despite his staggering contract, it has been suggested.
The Argentine legend had his contract details leaked by Spanish outlet El Mundo at the weekend.
The 30-page document showed Messi is earning £123m per year while earning a host of bonuses, including a £35m loyalty fee this coming summer even if he quits.
But financial experts have now revealed Messi is still making his club more money than it costs to keep him there.
Economist Marc Ciria crunched the numbers to get to the bottom of the debate once and for all amid claims Messi is a key reason for Barcelona's crippling debt.
He noted Messi is earning £123m per year in base salary, but is generating up to £270m in revenue by himself, thanks to social media, merchandise and attracting fans to matches.
A Barcelona shirt bearing his name can fetch between £90 and £180 alone – with around two millions 'Messi' jerseys sold each year.
Based on Ciria's numbers, the Argentine superstar is generating up to £150m in profit a year – making it money well spent for Nou Camp bosses.
Ciria also noted that Barcelona's sponsors renew their deals on a rolling one-year contract in line with Messi.
That suggests they're buying into the Messi brand as much as, if not more than, the Barca brand.
Ciria told Spanish newspaper Libertad Digital: "Messi is the fundamental part of Barca's usual income.
"I am analysing how much money he generates for the club and the figure is between €250m and €300m.
"If his salary is €140m annually, Barca are making €100m at least."
Cinto Ajram, Barcelona's former head of partnership activation, echoed Ciria's sentiment on the sponsorship front.
Ajram claimed: "Brands wouldn't dare renew for three or four years because they don't know what the club's value will be without Messi."
Barcelona presidential candidate Joan Laporta also backed Ciria and Ajram's theory.
In fact, Laporta – who served as president between 2003 and 2010 – claimed they undertook a study which proved he generated around ONE-THIRD of all of Barca's income.
Laporta told RAC1: "Leo generates much more income than the money it costs [to have him].
"We have carried out a study and it generates a third of Barca's total income."
It has also been claimed Messi's exit from LaLiga – potentially to join Manchester City or Paris Saint-Germain – could affect the league's negotiation standpoint regarding television rights.
The report hints broadcasters would be less willing to pay sky-high fees with Messi no longer hitting their screens.
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