Lionel Messi Signs Contract Extension Through 2018 With Barcelona

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News of soccer player transfers and signings doesn’t often make the front pages here in the U.S., unless David Beckham is involved, but there are indications that that’s starting to change. Interest in the “beautiful game” is rising as the U.S. men’s national team inches toward becoming a world power (the women, gold medalists at the London Olympics, are already there) and the MLS churns out better and better players.

Still, there’s a long way to go before American players match the class of the elite players in European soccer.

The best player in the world, Lionel Messi, just reached a deal that will see him stay at the best club in the world, Barcelona, until 2018. Barca also locked up key players Carles Puyol and Xavi until 2016, pretty much ensuring that it will remain the team to beat.

That’s major news around the world, but ESPN isn’t exactly running with it as today’s top story. As incredible an athlete as Messi is, he’s still a complete unknown to many Americans.

Still just 25 years old, the Argentinian player has accomplished nearly all there is to do at the club level. He scored a record 91 goals in 2012 — an absolutely ridiculous total. Last month, he won a fourth straight Ballon d’Or, the award for best player in the world. He’s won the Spanish league title and the Champions League, too.

Still, there’s one major thing missing from Messi’s resume: a World Cup win. Now that he’s settled his club situation for the foreseeable future, perhaps he will turn his focus to taking Argentina all the way to glory at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Interestingly, terms of the deal Messi signed with Barca aren’t being widely reported. That’s quite different from how signings work in leagues like the NFL and NBA, where player salaries are always at the forefront. It’s rumored that Messi earns a salary of 11 million euros (roughly US$14.75 million), so he’s certainly well-compensated for his services. Still, doesn’t it seem a bit unfair that the best player in the world’s most popular sport earns barely more per year than Carson Palmer, a below-average NFL quarterback?

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