Those hoping that Lionel Mess will remain with Barcelona got some encouraging news on Thursday.
In an interview on Spanish television, Messi’s father and agent, Jorge Messi, said that returning to the only professional club his son has ever known is still a possibility.
“Yes,” Jorge Messi said when asked if staying with Barca was still an option.
Messi joined Barcelona as a 13-year-old and has led the storied Spanish club to the most successful period in its 121-year history, winning four Champions League titles and 10 La Liga crowns since 2005. But the Catalans have struggled to add additional silverware in recent years, and last month suffered an 8-2 drubbing last month in the Champions semifinals to eventual champ Bayern Munich. That humiliation — the most lopsided defeat both of of Messi’s career and in Barcelona’s history — prompted the now-33-year-old to inform his bosses that he wants to leave this summer.
Messi contends that he is allowed to walk away on a free transfer, with Manchester City in England believed to be his preferred destination. Man City is coached by Pep Guardiola, Messi’s former manager with Barcelona. One report suggested that Messi had already agreed to a five-year pact with the Sky Blues that would see him finish his otherworldly career in MLS with sister club New York City FC.
Meantime, Barcelona maintains that the opt-out clause in Messi’s contract has expired in June and that he has another year left on his deal. It has also insisted that any club that wants Messi must trigger his $834 million release clause. La Liga has backed the club’s position. Per reports in both England and Spain, City would only sign Messi as a free agent.
Jorge Messi flew to Spain from his native Argentina earlier this week to try to break the stalemate in a meeting with under-fire club president Josep Bartomeu. Neither side budged in the first of what is expected to be several face-to-face discussions, according to multiple reports, with the elder Messi telling reporters Wednesday that it would be “difficult” for his son to stay.
A day later, though, he seemed to have softened that stance. Argentinian outlet TyC Sports went as far as reporting that Messi is now likely to sign a two-year contract extension at the Nou Camp.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner has refused to train under new Barcelona manager Ronaldo Koeman until his future is settled.
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