Vanguard (Lagos)

Africa: Messi Hits Jackpot! Now World's Highest Paid Player

Lionel Messi is ready to sign for life at Barcelona with a deal that would give him the highest club wages of any footballer in Europe's top leagues.

The player's father, Jorge, has already opened negotiations with the Catalan club over extending his current contract, meaning he will stay at Barcelona until he is at least 31.

The deal is expected to be structured so that it increases yearly, rising to £12.5million a year net before bonuses. Messi, 25, signed his last big contract in the 2009-10 season with then sporting director Txiki Begiristain and his vice-president Marc Ingla.

That contract is heavily incentivised with his pay, after bonuses, in any given season automatically becoming his basic pay for the following season.

President Sandro Rosell is keen to extend that deal by two years to ensure he stays at Barcelona before fulfilling his ambition of a swansong in Argentina before he retires.

The player's net take-home pay before bonuses is estimated at £9m year, behind Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic's £12m and Samuel Eto'o, who earns £16m at Anzhi Makhachkala.

Although his bonuses, as well as sponsorship, invariably take Messi past those players, the new deal could see his basic pay leave him clear of the field.

It would also see him pull away from Cristiano Ronaldo's estimated £9m annual earnings before bonuses. That will annoy Ronaldo's camp, who have been frustrated by Real Madrid's failure to start talks over a new deal for the Portugal forward.

The Chelsea owner will offer the Colombia striker a five-year, £200,000-a-week contract but his dream of landing the world's most wanted No 9 could be thwarted by Real Madrid.

A bid of €60m (£48.8m) will land the striker, who destroyed Chelsea in the European Super Cup in August, but Real president Florentino Perez is committed to meeting that asking price at the end of the season.

Just as Messi is beyond the reach of the Chelsea owner, Real's determination not to miss out on Falcao - as they did Sergio Aguero - threatens the Russian's chances of landing his latest top target.

A gentleman's agreement between Real and Atletico has in the past stopped the former from signing the latter's players but Perez was criticised by fans for allowing Aguero to join Manchester City last season. He is up for re-election this summer and needs a big signing to help him win.

Despite the Madrid clubs' understanding, Aguero was bound for Real before the start of last season until differences over which agent would be used scuppered the deal.

That will not be an issue as Falcao is represented by Jorge Mendes, who already manages a host of Real's top players, including Ronaldo.

Perez was at an awards ceremony in midweek with Falcao and was filmed without his knowledge joking with the player and goalkeeper Iker Casillas that he would pass the striker a serviette with the words 'do you want to sign for Madrid?' on it.

This is a reference to the note he scrawled on a napkin for Zinedine Zidane when the two met prior to the Frenchman signing for Madrid from Juventus.

Perez was alerted to the rolling cameras by Casillas, who told him: 'Be careful, president. They are filming.'

The man who landed Zidane as well as Luis Figo, Ronaldo and David Beckham in the team that became known as the Galaticos wants another earth-shattering signing to send out a message to football's new money.

Messi's Barcelona team-mate David Villa, another former Chelsea target, could also be on his way out of Spain after being edged out at the Nou Camp.

The 31-year-old was the last of former president Joan Laporta's signings and is on a €6m-a-year deal that runs until 2014. He has started six league games this season.

The top 10 richest players

1 Lionel Messi (Barcelona) £27.5m

2 David Beckham (Free agent) £26.2m

3 Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid) £24.3m

4 S amuel Eto'o (Anzhi Makhachkala) £19.4m

5 Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) £17.2m

6 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris St Germain) £16m

7 S ergio Aguero (Manchester City) £15.7m

8 Yaya Toure (Manchester City) £14.7m

9 Fernando Torres (Chelsea) £13.9m

10 Kaka (Real Madrid) £12.9m

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