Reports in Argentina and Spain on Tuesday evening claimed that Messi had sent a burofax to Barcelona asking the club to allow him to depart, using a clause agreed in his last contract by which he can leave the Nou Camp for free.
The club later confirmed the reports, but that exit stipulation is understood to have expired on 10 June, with Messi’s contract now having a €700m release clause. Barcelona’s board will meet over the next few days to decide what to do in what will be a seismic and defining decision in the club’s history.
Messi, 33, has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, scoring over 600 goals, winning 10 league titles, four Champions Leagues, and six Ballon d’Or awards.
His announcement comes 11 days after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals. The defeat brought a close to a season riven by uncertainty and discontent, igniting an internal crisis as Quique Setien was sacked and replaced by Ronald Koeman as manager. Messi’s letter also followed reports that Barcelona planned to terminate the contract of his close friend and striker Luis Suarez.
His attempt to leave Barcelona could incite a legal battle between the two parties, with Barcelona saying they would seek advice over the activation of the exit clause in Messi’s contract.
If Messi is allowed to leave, only a handful of super clubs would realistically be able to afford his huge wages, with Manchester City – led former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola – and Paris Saint-Germain touted as possible destinations.
Messi has consistently aired his dissatisfaction this season with the club’s performance, both on and off the pitch, and has remained publicly silent since the defeat by Bayern.
Club president Josep Bartomeu recently said he was confident that Messi would finish his career with Barcelona, however, when Messi met new head coach Koeman last week, the Argentine reportedly said that he saw himself as more out than in.
Upon the news breaking, former captain and teammate Carles Puyol tweeted: “Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend.”
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