LIONEL MESSI will leave Barcelona if he does not agree to a pay cut.
That is the opinion of Barca presidential candidate Emili Rousaud who called the Argentine's £500,000-a-week salary 'unsustainable'.
Messi was close to leaving in the summer after handing in a transfer request demanding the Catalans let him leave on a free.
Manchester City were frontrunners in the race to sign him given the forward's links to Pep Guardiola and City's vast financial resources.
But he eventually stayed put after the Catalans insisted the release clause he was trying to trigger had already expired.
The 33-year-old's contract expires next summer anyway and his future is far from decided.
But Rousaud says unless he agrees to a wage cut there'll be no chance of extending his stay at the Nou Camp.
He told Catalan newspaper ARA: "We'll have to sit down with Messi and ask him to make a salary cut.
"Right now, with things as they are, it's unsustainable. We'll ask him to make the sacrifice. If there's no agreement, then Messi will leave.
"Messi has written the most brilliant pages in the club's history. We have to honour our legends, but the reality is what it is.
"I believe that things have to be said as they are.
"We can't fool our members. We'll make every effort to ensure he stays, but always with the interests of the club first."
The Messi matter is at the heart of the upcoming Barcelona presidential elections.
Frontrunner Victor Font claimed last week he is 'convinced' he can keep Messi at the club.
He told ESPN: "I'm convinced that with a competitive, exciting and, especially in Messi's case, long-term project – one that could even go beyond the day that Messi retires – we will convince him to stay.
"Messi is the best player in the history of the No 1 sport in the world. Imagine what that means.
"For that reason, the Messi-Barca association is a strategic one and we must do everything possible to guarantee the association lives on.
"Keeping in mind he can speak with other clubs in January, phoning Messi must be one of the priorities."
Man City are still said to be keen on the superstar and will ramp up their transfer pursuit next year.
Elsewhere, Cristiano Ronaldo said he never saw Messi as a rival and claimed their relations were always cordial.
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