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Official: Messi Will Leave Barca

Lionel Messi will not return to FC Barcelona, the club confirmed on Thursday.

The Argentine’s previous deal with the Catalan giants had expired by the end of June, leaving the six-time Ballon d’Or winner as the most-profile free agent football has seen in a long time.

“Despite FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi having reached an agreement and the clear intention of both parties to sign a new contract today, this cannot happen because of financial and structural obstacles (Spanish Liga regulations),” the club said in a statement.

“As a result of this situation, Messi shall not be staying on at FC Barcelona. Both parties deeply regret that the wishes of the player and the club will ultimately not be fulfilled.

“FC Barcelona wholeheartedly expresses its gratitude to the player for his contribution to the aggrandisement of the club and wishes him all the very best for the future in his personal and professional life.”

Barcelona are the only club Messi has ever played for, making 778 appearances for the Catalan giants during which he scored 672 goals and assisted in another 305.

He has also helped the club to lift 35 trophies since making his first-team debut in 2004.