The Barcelona legend will depart Camp Nou this summer after the Spanish champions' greatest rivals activated his €250 million buy-out clause
Lionel Messi has left Barcelona in turmoil by agreeing to join Real Madrid at the end of the season in a record-breaking five-year deal that will be worth around half a billion euros.
The Argentine forward, winner of five Ballon d'Or awards and considered one of the greatest players of all time, will cost Madrid €250m to buy and approximately the same again in agent fees, commissions and wages.
The move was announced directly before Saturday's Clasico at the Santiago Bernabeu in what appears to have been a deliberate move to destabilise the Liga leaders.
Messi, who joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old, explained that money was the only factor driving his move.
"With Financial Fair Play, Barcelona could not give me what I wanted and deserved," the 28-year-old said at the pre-match press conference.
"I recommended they fund my contract by selling the Camp Nou, but for some reason they valued the club more than me.
"When I learned this, I was heartbroken and our relationship was finished.
"A man of my status should have a 2000-metre long mega-yacht, staffed and powered at all times. Like [Roman] Abramovich. The purchase and operating costs alone demand that I take home €50m per year after tax. Minimum. Is that too much to ask?"
However, Goal correspondent Garry McGarry obtained exclusive information hinting at other reasons for the move.
"Gerard Pique kept beating Messi at Fifa," McGarry explained in a series of poorly-worded tweets. "Messi hates to lose and became angered when the club refused to replace Pique's left hand with a pirate's hook.
"That was it for the ‘little dictator’, and he has done the unthinkable."
Sources in Madrid have indicated that Messi has also been offered the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, "when we get it back after Britain leaves the EU", information which was not confirmed or denied by the Messi camp.
In an official statement released by Real Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo said he was delighted to welcome Messi aboard and that he was "looking forward to receiving his support from the wing".
Barcelona, meanwhile, continue to be beset by financial difficulties but are expected to replace Messi with Leicester City's Jamie Vardy, who will be mentored by Uruguay star Luis Suarez.