Messi misses virus test as La Liga rules £624m release clause is valid
League backs Barcelona over stipulation in player’s contract Move to City may be forced through following no-show
La Liga has ruled that the £624 million release clause in Lionel Messi’s Barcelona contract remains valid after the Argentina striker demonstrated his determination to leave by failing to report to the club’s training ground yesterday.
With some senior figures at Barcelona expecting Messi to join Manchester City, a bitter dispute appears inevitable after it emerged that La Liga will side with the Spanish giants over the interpretation of Messi’s extraordinary release clause.
Messi had wanted to leave for free by exercising a clause in his four-year contract, signed in 2017, that would have allowed him to depart for nothing if he submitted a request before June 10 of this year.
Messi’s lawyers will argue that date, nominally 10 days after the expected end of the season, should still apply as the 33-year-old submitted his request to leave within that time period following the end of the postponed 2019-20 season.
La Liga, however, has now intervened to say that it will not deregister the greatest goalscorer in the
Upset: Barcelona supporters have been left devastated by the talk of Lionel Messi’s exit
competition’s history unless the release clause is met.
Messi was due at Barcelona’s training ground for a Covid-19 test at 10.15am yesterday, ahead of a planned return to team training today, but did not attend. All members of the first-team squad had been given an individual time to turn up at their Ciutat Esportiva training base, with player testing staggered throughout the morning.
Messi’s no-show means that he cannot now take part in training today and, although he could be fined by Barcelona, also suggests that he is ready to force through a move.
With Messi out of contract next season, and Barcelona labouring under a wage bill of £598 million, as well as losses from the coronavirus pandemic which are estimated at €154 million (£135 million), some sort of financial compromise still appears probable.
That could mean City paying a negotiated fee for Messi, although calculating the market value of arguably the greatest footballer in history remains complex.
Messi has scored 444 La Liga goals in his career, top-scoring in seven seasons and helping Barcelona to win 10 league titles and four Champions Leagues. His last match was the embarrassing 8-2 Champions League defeat by Bayern Munich earlier this month.
City manager Pep Guardiola, who managed Messi to vast previous success at Barcelona, was pictured alongside a Barcelona restaurant owner in a photograph that was circulated on social media on Friday night.
The majority of City players are on international duty and are not expected back until Sept 9 or 10, when they will first have to be tested for coronavirus. Even if he must now face a two-week quarantine, Guardiola would be back in the training ground on Sept 12, giving him nine days before the club’s first game of the season.
There was no formal statement from Barcelona or Messi – just La Liga, which lost its other most famous star two years ago when Cristiano Ronaldo joined Juventus for £80million, also at the age of 33.
“The contract is currently valid and has a ‘release clause’, which would apply in the event of Lionel Andres Messi deciding to unilaterally rescind that contract early,” La Liga said. “La Liga will not process the approval needed prior to a request to be deregistered as a player with the Spanish football federation, unless the amount in the release clause has been paid.”