Messi de­ter­mined to leave

➤ Al­lies told of de­ter­mi­na­tion to call time on Barcelona ca­reer ➤ Club le­gend de­nies plot­ting to oust pres­i­dent Bar­tomeu

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Mike McGrath

The prospect of Lionel Messi leav­ing Barcelona in­creased markedly yes­ter­day when the Ar­gen­tine play­maker told friends that he was de­ter­mined to quit the club ahead of talks be­tween his fa­ther, Jorge, and Barca pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu next week. Manch­ester City are strong favourites to sign the 33-year-old.

‘Un­til it is over there is al­ways hope. I hope the de­ci­sion can be changed’

Lionel Messi has told close friends he is in­tent on leav­ing Barcelona ahead of his fa­ther’s talks with club pres­i­dent Josep Maria Bar­tomeu.

Messi’s fa­ther, Jorge, is sched­uled to meet Bar­tomeu this week, prob­a­bly to­day, to dis­cuss the bit­ter break­down of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween player and club.

The talks come af­ter Barca’s great­est player re­fused to re­turn for pre-sea­son coro­n­avirus test­ing and ef­fec­tively went on strike to force a move.

One source who has spo­ken to the Ar­gentina in­ter­na­tional was told he was de­ter­mined to leave af­ter al­most two decades at the Nou Camp and that in­form­ing the club of his in­ten­tion via “buro­fax” was not a move in a power strug­gle that would end in him stay­ing and Bar­tomeu be­ing re­moved.

Jorge Messi will em­pha­sise his son’s po­si­tion when he meets Bar­tomeu and will in­sist on strik­ing a deal for him to leave. La Liga has is­sued a state­ment say­ing Messi’s £615 mil­lion re­lease clause is still ap­pli­ca­ble, which is a blow to the 33-year-old’s hopes of leav­ing.

Manch­ester City have al­ways felt they would have a chance of sign­ing Messi if he be­came avail­able. French cham­pi­ons Paris St-Ger­main are among a small clutch of clubs who could af­ford to match wages of £500,000 a week at Barca.

La Liga’s stance means Jorge Messi’s meet­ing with Bar­tomeu will be to dis­cuss whether the club would be will­ing to sell for a re­al­is­tic fee.

It is be­lieved that there is some sup­port from the board for sell­ing Messi, given he can leave for noth­ing in eight months and that he has made his po­si­tion clear.

Messi would still com­mand a huge trans­fer fee – at least close to a world record or sur­pass­ing the £198mil­lion for Ney­mar to join PSG from Barca – which would give the club power in the trans­fer mar­ket to re­build Ron­ald Koeman’s squad.

The al­ter­na­tive could be Messi ne­go­ti­at­ing a pre-con­tract in four months to join his next club on a free. Fail­ing to re­port for coro­n­avirus test­ing means he can­not be in­volved in Koeman’s first pre-sea­son train­ing ses­sions as he looks to turn the club round af­ter they con­ceded eight goals to Bay­ern Mu­nich in ex­it­ing the Cham­pi­ons League.

City will be among the clubs mon­i­tor­ing the out­come of Jorge Messi’s meet­ing with Bar­tomeu, whether a break­through can be made be­tween the par­ties and if that could fa­cil­i­tate a move for Pep Guardi­ola to be re­united with the player he won the Cham­pi­ons League with at Barca.

Vic­tor Font, a can­di­date for Barcelona pres­i­dent at the elec­tion in March, says they must look to the fu­ture and en­sure ties with Messi are not sev­ered. “Un­til it is over there is al­ways hope. I hope the de­ci­sion can be changed,” Font said.

Barca have al­lowed Ivan Rakitic to re­join Sevilla for a nom­i­nal fee of around £1 mil­lion.

In the frame: Fans take pic­tures of the lat­est street art­work of Messi to ap­pear in Barcelona

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