La Liga has dashed Lionel Messi’s hopes of leaving Barcelona on a free transfer by stating his release clause will have to be paid if he is to leave the Nou Camp this summer.
Messi notified Barcelona this week that he intends to walk away from the club by exercising a clause in his contract that allows him to leave for free at the end of each season.
Even though the deadline to exercise the clause has passed, Messi’s lawyers believe Barcelona should honour it as the season had to be extended because of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Barcelona insist the clause has expired and that the only way Messi will leave the club is if a buyer pays his €700m release clause.
La Liga has now bolstered Barcelona’s stance by releasing a statement reading: “In compliance with the applicable rule, La Liga will not approve a request to be de-registered as a player with the Spanish football federation, unless the amount in the release clause has been paid.”
La Liga’s intervention comes just hours after Messi failed to report for coronavirus testing at Barcelona’s training complex, meaning he will be unable to participate in Ronald Koeman’s first training session as the club’s new head coach on Monday afternoon.
It is understood the 33-year-old warned the club in advance via Burofax – a form of recorded delivery provided by Spain’s postal service – that he was not going to be present.
If Messi does manage to negotiate his Barcelona exit, Manchester City are currently the favourites to sign him.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s push to depart the Nou Camp comes after Barcelona finished the season without a trophy for the first time in 12 years and ended the campaign with a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
“I think the situation is that Messi wants a meeting with the Barcelona board to reiterate his desire that he wants to leave.
“Barcelona’s position is not going to change. Messi and his representatives think there is a clause in his contract which means he can leave for nothing this summer.
“I think the message he will get in that meeting from Barcelona is ‘you are not going anywhere for free, if you want to leave we believe your contract says that there is a release clause of €700m, that is what it will take’.”
Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero said the seeds for Messi’s decision were sown when he met new boss Ronald Koeman last week:
“The main thing is that the meeting last Friday with Ronald Koeman was not as good as they expected for a football club like Barcelona.
“The meeting with Koeman didn’t go well, from Messi’s opinion.
“Koeman told him that he didn’t count, for example, with players such as Arturo Vidal or Luis Suarez. And Messi didn’t like that.
“The way of Koeman treating him in the media and the way he has expressed the way he wants to work in Barcelona wasn’t liked by Messi, so I think that was the situation.”
“Manchester City is the best option because of the money, because of the Premier League and because of Pep Guardiola. Put everything together and it is a good situation for Messi.
“This evening in Spain, on a television programme, they said that Manchester United could be an option. Many people in Italy are saying that Inter [Milan] could be an option. I don’t think so because there is a difference in the financial situation of the Premier League and Italy, France, Spain or Germany.
“Of course, the Premier League is also maybe the best league in the world so I think Premier League plus Manchester City plus Guardiola is a good cocktail altogether.
“We know the union of Guardiola and Messi at Barcelona eight or nine years ago was amazing. Maybe the best team in the world ever. I would say there is a huge possibility of Manchester City and I would say they are the first ones in this race.”