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