The Lionel Messi contract leak over the weekend ramped up talk of financial Armageddon at Barcelona - a club already reeling from the publication of the figures in their annual report.
So is this really Apocalypse Nou?
For one of the biggest sporting institutions in the world, is there a way back from the brink?
What are the implications for Messi, the new stadium and the presidential race?
And how much is down to coronavirus or have years of mismanagement just caught up with them? Sportsmail takes a closer look.
It’s no secret that Barcelona are in a miserable financial situation. Their annual report made for grim reading but the Messi contract revelation over the weekend only added fuel to the fire.
The El Mundo story detailing large parts of Messi’s deal with Barcelona has infuriated the player, embarrassed the club, and left everyone asking the same questions: who leaked the contract and why?
And has the £492million (€550m) the club has paid him (half of which went to the tax man) really broken them?
It highlights the way Messi’s relationship with the club has nose-dived to an all-time low over the last 12 months that it was even necessary to distance themselves from the story and put to bed the suggestion that they were behind a 10-page leak that basically pinned Barcelona’s current situation – teetering on the edge of financial implosion – on him.
The player is planning legal action and many supporters of the club sprang the defence of the Barcelona captain.
While the £492m is an eye-watering sum, they might point to the close to £352m (€400m) in transfer fees spent on Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann causing as much harm.
Looking at his other numbers - the trophies - it’s hard to argue that it’s Messi who ruined the club.
Barcelona had won just one European Cup before he arrived. Now they have won five.
They have won 10 leagues in his 16 years there. His free-kick against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend was goal No 650.
Barcelona have rode on the shoulders of Messi to reach the summit of global football brand recognition.
He’s made them No 1. If this does really turn out to be his final few months at Barcelona it is a very ugly end to what had been the club’s most beautiful story.
What’s the feeling in Catalonia?
Some people have been saying: well the club will need to sell Messi now. It’s a bit late for that. If Messi leaves this summer he’ll leave on a free. Barcelona will get no money for him.
They might even have to pay him because he will be due a loyalty bonus for having seen out his contract. They can only hope he waives it as a goodwill gesture.
Of course there is no guarantee he will go. Before the El Mundo exclusive he had seemed happier lately. If election favourite Joan Laporta wins on March 7, that will give him a friend and ally at the top. He could renew for two years and scoot off to the US after the Qatar World Cup.
But if he does stay he will have to take a massive pay cut. He would have anyway because it’s obvious he is not going to be paid the same as a 34-year-old that he was paid as a 30-year-old. But it may have to be sizeable cut. - Daily Mail