By Duncan Castles
Barcelona are confident of securing Andres Iniesta to a new contract by the end of December. The midfielder has asked for a deal that will net him over £9.1m a year and see him finish his trophy-laden career at the Catalan club.
Iniesta's current contract expires in 2015 and the club's reluctance to meet demands for a salary aligned to that being paid to summer signing Neymar has drawn the attention of Europe's leading clubs.
Iniesta has been stalling on agreeing new terms for some time and was unhappy at being used as a substitute earlier in the season. Barca, though, are increasingly hopeful a deal will be struck before the end of the calendar year.
The club's confidence in retaining Iniesta, who has been with them since he was 12, is based on a belief that Iniesta's strong preference is to continue, and ultimately, conclude his playing career at the Camp Nou. Crucially, however, the two parties are yet to agree financial terms with the World Cup winner seeking parity with Brazil forward Neymar.
At present, Iniesta's after-tax salary stands at £6.8million, a sum which placed him on the second tier of Barcelona's pay scale, alongside the likes of Xavi, until the club spent heavily to complete Neymar's long-planned transfer from Santos last summer.
Under pressure from Real Madrid, who budgeted over £83m to usurp their rivals pre-contract agreement with the Brazil forward, Barca put together an unprecedented remuneration package for a recruit with zero experience of European football at that point.
While Neymar's personal terms were structured so that his new employers could present his base salary as being lower than Iniesta and Xavi's at £5.8m net, other payments to the Brazilian and his family inflated the effective earnings well beyond that of the two playmakers.
In June, Barcelona vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu announced that the club had paid £47.5m to Santos, and three companies – DIS Esporte, Terceira Estrela Investimentos and N&N – to secure Neymar's signature. Neymar's father owns N&N, which is understood to have received £33.3m of that outlay. Barca had already spent £8.3m in December 2011 to acquire a first option on Neymar's transfer from Brazil.
The deal unsettled a number of Barca stalwarts, effectively establishing a new watermark for their own salary negotiations.
Iniesta and his advisers expect the 29-year-old's new deal to net between £8.3m and £9.1m per annum. They regard the matter as one not just of financial fairness, but as a recognition of the midfielder's status within a club where he has been a central element in six La Liga and three Champions League winning teams.
By Duncan Castles