Will it get messy for Lionel Messi?
Barcelona might approach court over superstar's release clause after Argentine demands termination of his contract unilaterally
Six-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi told Barcelona FC he wants to leave—on a free transfer—in a bombshell fax on Tuesday that is expected to spark a legal battle over a buy-out clause worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Signalling the end of an era at Barcelona, where Messi, 33, is the record scorer and has won four Champions League titles, the disgruntled Argentine wants to terminate his contract unilaterally by triggering a release clause, a source told AFP.
But the club hinted that a legal battle could be coming and said it won't automatically grant the Argentina great his wishes. The dispute centres around a clause in Messi's contract. Barcelona said the document sent by Messi referenced a clause allowing him to leave for free at the end of the season. However, the club said the deadline for triggering that clause expired in June and that it would seek legal advice.
Messi's contract also includes a 700 million euro (R6,130 cr) buyout clause. The Spanish season would normally have ended in May but was pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speculation swirled about Messi's departure after this month's humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich.
'We want Lionel to stay'
Meanwhile, Barcelona haven't given up on Messi just yet. A day after the Argentine great told the club he wants to leave, Barcelona said its restructuring project still revolves around the player. "We want to rebuild for the future together with the best player in history," Ramon Planes, the club's technical director, said on Wednesday.
"We are not contemplating any departure on a contractual level because we want him to stay. We have to show a huge respect for Messi because he is the best player in the world."
Messi skips training
However, Messi informed Barcelona coaches he was not going to turn up to training on Wednesday. "Messi informed us that he was not going to show up to training,"
Top clubs in fray
Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan are among those to have been linked to Messi. ESPN reported that Messi spoke last week with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola about a possible move. A Barcelona-based Brazilian journalist also said Messi wants to play under his former Barcelona coach.
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