LIONEL MESSI's wages are no longer affordable for Barcelona – a presidential candidate claimed.
The £500k-a-week ace is out of contract in the summer and set to leave the Catalan giants.
The La Liga side are facing financial ruin with £700m debts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
And Emili Rousard – who is bidding to replace former chief Josep Maria Bartomeu – insists he wants Messi to stay but he'd have to take a pay cut.
He told Spanish newspaper AS: "We can't just cut everywhere, and that's it because we would become small and we have to think big.
"The future (of the club) is in his hands, but at the moment Leo's salary is not affordable.
"Messi is a winner and if he goes it won't be to be paid more. Leo Messi is the player who has given most to Barca in their history and what Messi has given is not quantifiable.
"We won't speak with the player until we are in power, but the person that brought him to Barcelona is in this bid, Jose Maria Minguella."
Last month Barcelona players and boss Ronald Koeman agreed pay cuts to save the club from a financial meltdown.
Barcelona had seen their debts double over the course of the 2019-20 season due to the lockdown.
The club has recently been hit with a wage cap of £342m – with the club previously allowed to spend up to £601.5m – a drop of 43 per cent.
All season long, Barcelona chiefs have been locked in talks with players, pleading with them to accept a pay-cut for the good of the club.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Gerard Pique, Frenkie De Jong and Clement Lenglet all signed new deals earlier this month.
They agreed to a temporary pay-cut of 30 per cent at the time of putting pen to paper.
But the rest of the squad stalled on talks, including Messi.
Finally progress was made on Friday, with Koeman and his entire coaching staff all agreeing to cuts.
And now his players have followed suit, agreeing to a help save a combined £110m after many stars initially refused to take a cut.
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