La Liga has sided with Barcelona in saying that any club that wants to sign Lionel Messi away from the Nou Camp this summer will have to trigger the €700 million ($834 million) release clause contained in Messi’s contract, which Spain’s top soccer league said Sunday remains in place.
Messi stunned the sports world last week by telling Barcelona that he wanted to leave after 16 seasons. The 33-year-old, who has led Barca to 10 Spanish titles and four UEFA Champions League crowns en route to becoming arguably the best player of all time, contends that he can leave the club immediately on a free transfer per the terms of a clause in his deal.
The clause expired in June, after the 2019-20 season was supposed to end. But Messi’s representatives say it’s still valid because the campaign was extended into August following a three-month shutdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Official statement by La Liga. They side with Barcelona in Leo Messi contract battle: “Current deal is still valid and paying release clause for €700m is the only way out”. 🛑— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) August 30, 2020
Manchester City are still waiting for Barça decision. 🔵 #MCFC pic.twitter.com/p15IWcBRMg
As it stands, Messi has a season remaining on the four-year extension he inked in 2017. It seems he has no intention of honoring it. Per multiple reports Sunday, the first day of Barcelona’s preseason under new coach Ronald Koeman, Messi did not show up for a scheduled COVID-19 test.
Messi is not expected to return to training before his future is decided, either, with his lawyers apparently telling him that rejoining the club in any way would hurt the argument that he’s now unattached. While it remains possible that Messi and the only club he’s ever known could work out their differences — Barcelona’s aging roster is in need of a complete overhaul — his heart is apparently set on opening a new chapter elsewhere.
Manchester City remains the frontrunner for Messi. The perennial English Premier League contender is coached by Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former boss with Barcelona, and is as desperate to capture its first Champions League title as Messi is to win his fifth. The two sides have reportedly already discussed the terms of a five-year deal that could see Messi finish his career with MLS side New York City FC, one of the Sky Blues’ sister clubs.
If and when City is able land Messi following Sunday’s news remains to be seen, with the final decision on Messi’s contract situation looking increasingly likely to be made by a court.
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