Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has dropped a massive bombshell, reportedly telling Barcelona that he wants to leave the club and terminate his contract.
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Messi, 33, has spent his entire professional career with Barcelona, scoring over 600 goals and winning ten league titles and four Champions Leagues.
However in the past couple of seasons cracks have started to appear in the relationship between Messi and the club, following high-profile exits in the Champions League. Messi had become more outspoken than ever, willing to criticise senior club figures as well as his own team-mates.
He reportedly was considering his future but manager Quique Setien was fired and his successor Ronald Koeman was announced. Koeman and Messi reportedly spoke on the phone where the new manager told him that the team has to come first and there can be no preferential treatment. Messi reportedly told Koeman on that occasion that he saw his future away from Barcelona.
Seven stars at risk as Ronald Koeman plots huge Barcelona clear out - Euro Papers
Messi has now firmly decided that he wants to leave the club and has reportedly informed them of his decision via fax. It is a burofax which is a letter that has to be signed for which informs the sender that the recipient got the letter. The news, reported by several outlets in Spain and Argentina, comes shortly after it was reported that Koeman and Barcelona have told Messi's close friend Luis Suarez that he will have his contract torn up by the club.
Messi reportedly wants to invoke a clause in his contract that allows him to leave unilaterally this summer. The clause was believed to have expired in June but could be extended due to the prolongation of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Reports in Spain are now suggesting that the Barcelona board are having an emergency meeting following this development, while a legal battle over the exit clause could follow.
The fallout from this story has seen Spanish paper AS report new Barca head coach Koeman told Messi his "privileges were over" - a message that has seemingly pushed the Argentine closer to the exit door.
Analysis: Power play from Messi?
This could of course be a major power play from Messi. The presidential elections have been brought forward to March 2021, but if the player wants to see change now then he could be making this mightiest of ultimatums.
If so, current president Josep Maria Bartomeu and the rest of the Barca board have a decision to make, call Messi’s bluff, or call an immediate election.
An election would see frontrunner Victor Font likely take over as president, and he would then look to soothe Messi’s fears and also potentially bring in Xavi – the man he wants in charge of his Barca project.
Therefore it could be Messi leaving in the coming weeks, or Bartomeu and even Koeman. That would be no contest for Barca fans, some of whom congregated outside the Nou Camp calling on the president to quit...
Victor Font calls for earlier election
Indeed, candidate Font has tweeted the following, calling for Bartomeu to resign and an early election:
You know perfectly well that if the Catalans could go to the Stadium, the whole field would be a cry: Bartomeu is already folding! You haven’t even been able to guard the best of history, a homemade myth. That is why we insist: Bartomeu resigns and elections as soon as possible!
'Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend'
Former Barca captain Carles Puyol has tweeted his support for Messi, perhaps the clearest indication amid all the reports - and before confirmation from the club - that the 33-year-old is set to leave.
And there was a reply from Luis Suarez too... following reports Koeman has told the striker he is no longer needed by the club.
Where could Messi go?
Given Messi’s astronomical wages there aren’t many clubs who could afford to sign him.
Manchester City, managed by Messi’s former boss Pep Guardiola, are one of the options whilst recent reports have suggested local rivals Manchester United are also interested.
Serie A side Inter Milan have a long-held interest in signing Messi and might be players whilst PSG are a logical destination as a team who could certainly afford to sign him.
Meanwhile former United defender Rio Ferdinand has speculated that Chelsea could be in for the superstar,
'We will never forget you'
Even Catalonia president Quim Torra has weighed in, thanking Messi for his services.
"Catalonia will always be your home. Thank you so much for all this time of happiness and extraordinary football. We have been lucky enough to share a few years of our lives with the best player in the world. And a noble athlete. We will never forget you. Leo Messi"