Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona he wants to “unilaterally” terminate his contract with the Spanish giants after a calamitous end to the season, a club source confirmed to AFP on Tuesday.
Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barcelona fax in which they announced Messi’s desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause, sending shockwaves throughout the world of football.
Barcelona have yet to officially react but are understood to believe the clause expired in June and that he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.
“In principle, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.
“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, based on which his release clause amounts to €700 million.”
Messi joined Barcelona’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut in 2004 as a 17-year-old.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is the club’s record scorer with 634 goals and has won the Champions League four times.
But his future at Barca was thrown into serious doubt following a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals in Lisbon 11 days ago.
It marked the first time Barca had conceded eight goals in a game since losing to Sevilla 8-0 in the 1946 Spanish Cup.
The humbling defeat sparked drastic changes within the club.
Argentine sports daily Ole described Messi’s wish to leave as a “complete bombshell”, but he has had regular disagreements with the club’s board in recent times.
He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend,” tweeted Barca great Carles Puyol, a long-time former teammate of Messi, to which Suarez replied with two applause emojis.
Vidal also posted a cryptic message on Twitter.
“When you shut a tiger in a cage he doesn’t give in, he fights back,” he wrote.
Messi’s reported salary of nearly €1 million per week would limit the number of potential suitors able to afford his services while respecting Uefa’s Financial Fair Play regulations. Source: AFP