Lionel Messi signs Barcelona contract extension with astronomical buyout clause

Lionel Messi has signed a new Barcelona contract that should keep him at the club through 2021. (Getty)

Remember all the silly rumors about Lionel Messi wanting out at Barcelona? About Manchester City being ready to swoop in for the greatest player on the planet? We can now laugh those off with 100 percent certainty.

Messi, who began his professional career at Barcelona 14 years ago, has signed a contract extension that will run through the 2020-21 season. The club officially announced the deal Saturday.

The new contract, according to the club, contains a €700 million release clause – more than three times as high as the Neymar release clause that came back to bite Barcelona this past summer.

Messi’s previous contract was set to expire at the end of the season. Barcelona announced in July that it had agreed to an extension with the Argentine star, but Messi had not yet put pen to paper.

That left the door open for a whirlwind of rumors. After Barcelona lost Neymar to PSG in August, newspapers flooded fans with headlines such as “Laporta: Barcelona must get rid of [president Josep] Bartomeu to keep Messi happy,” and “Lionel Messi ‘seriously considering’ leaving Barcelona as Man City circle.” There were reports of significant discontent and instability at Barca in the wake of the Neymar sale.

Messi has long been seen as a one-club player. There were also various reports that the new contract was “all but signed.” There was even a recent one that it had been signed. But until the club officially announced it, the door was open. Messi would have been able to negotiate with other clubs in January, and potentially leave Barcelona for free at the end of the season.

Alas, those scenarios have now been put to bed.

Messi joined the Barcelona academy as a 13-year-old, and was promoted to the first team for the first time in 2004. He made his competitive debut as a 17-year-old. And the rest, as they say, is history.

While he has never won a major international tournament with Argentina, he has rarely faltered in Catalonia. He has scored 523 goals for Barcelona, won five Ballon d’Or awards as the world player of the year, and has helped lead the club to eight La Liga and four Champions League titles.

Now 30, Messi is still very close to his best. He’s led Barcelona to an unbeaten start to the 2017-18 season. The Catalan club is top of La Liga, 10 points ahead of both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, and four ahead of Valencia. It has also secured its progression to the Champions League knockout stages.

Barcelona has now secured his brilliance for at least another three-and-a-half seasons.

– – – – – – –

Henry Bushnell covers soccer – the U.S. national teams, the Premier League, and much, much more – for FC Yahoo and Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Question? Comment? Email him at henrydbushnell@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @HenryBushnell.