Can Messi leave Barcelona without financial consequences?

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The FINANCIAL — Former Barcelona president Joan Laporta has accused the club of wanting to sell Lionel Messi. Turns out Messi sent FC Barcelona a burofax stating that he wants to leave, but when he signed a contract extension three years ago that committed him to Camp Nou through the 2020-21 season. The contract allowed him to leave as long as he decided before June 10, 2020. Since the date passed, the option to leave for free expired, in Barcelona’s view. On the other hand, Messi and his team think that date should be extended to cover the prolonged season – which ran until August due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Joan Laporta who won two European Cups under two different coaches while leading the club for seven years from 2003 to 2010 intends to stand in elections in March.

Laporta tweeted: They have told [Luis] Suarez they don’t want him by telephone. That seems an act of cowardice and a lack of respect towards the player. It’s an unacceptable way for the club to behave and it harms the image of the club. I suspect they want to sell Messi.’

Following the Catalan side’s humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals, club president Josep Maria Bartomeu told Barca TV: “Messi has said many times that he wants to finish career at Barca. (He) is still the best player in the world, and we have him with us … A cycle is coming to an end and another one starts but in the Messi era.” In July 2017, Barcelona and Messi announced a contract extension that would keep Messi with the team until June 30, 2021 and is reportedly worth €565,000 ($645,000) a week. Messi, 33, has been with the club since 2000, as reported by CNN.

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On 25 August Messi sent FC Barcelona a burofax, the equivalent of a piece of certified mail that requires the recipient’s signature, stating that he wants to leave and not play out the last year of his contract. But when Messi signed a contract extension in 2017 that committed him to Camp Nou through the 2020-21 season—and made him the world’s highest-earning soccer player on the pitch—a new exit clause was added. It allowed him to leave for nothing this summer as long as he communicated that decision before June 10, 2020. That date passed without word from Messi, so in Barcelona’s view, the option to leave for free expired. Barça says he is legally bound under contract to the club until June 30, 2021, according to Forbes.

After the news broke, Barca fans gathered outside the Nou Camp to protest against the board and in support of the club’s record goalscorer. A legal battle is now set to follow between the club and the player. Messi had a clause in his contract which allowed him to leave for free, if he informed the club of his desire before 10 June. That date has now passed so Barca believe the clause has expired, but Messi and his team feel it should be extended to cover the prolonged season – which ran until August due to the coronavirus pandemic. Barcelona have said the clause ran out on 10 June and they are convinced, legally, they could win any challenge to it. Of course, the fact the season was prolonged gives Messi the right to think that he is able to apply that clause, but lawyers have told the club he will not win that dispute. The fax sent is a well-thought of step by Leo, who, having spoken to his family and lawyers, is desperate to leave the club. The way he thinks about it today is clear: this is not a battle for more power. He wants to leave, BBC wrote.

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Should Barcelona not be able, or willing, to challenge his decision legally, Messi will not be short of suitors. More complex is which of the myriad clubs who would love to call on Messi would be able to afford his salary, which in some estimations runs at around $90 million a year, including image rights and bonuses. Manchester City — managed by Messi’s old mentor, Pep Guardiola — and Paris St.-Germain, home to his close friend Neymar, would be the likeliest candidates, ahead of Chelsea, Manchester United and even Real Madrid. Inter Milan, though less successful in recent years, has maintained a yearslong dialogue with Messi’s family, and has long attempted to position itself as his first alternative, according to the New York Times.

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