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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Explained: What is the clause that Lionel Messi has triggered to leave Barcelona?

Messi joined Barcelona at the age of 13. He made the first team debut at 16 and since then, helped them scale unprecedented heights, establishing the Catalan side as the best football club in the world.

Written by Mihir Vasavda , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: September 1, 2020 9:45:22 am
lionel messi barcelona, messi to leave barcelona, barcelona champions league defeat, bayern munich, barcelona defence, barcelona, barcelona football,Barcelona’s embarrassing defeat to Bayern in the Champions League last week is seen as the tipping point for Messi. (Reuters)

Ten days after Barcelona lost 2-8 to Bayern Munich in the quarterfinal of the Champions League, Lionel Messi has reportedly told the Spanish club that he wants to leave.

According to reports in the Spanish media, Messi, whose contract runs out in May 2021, faxed a message to Barcelona on Tuesday night, asking to be released immediately by triggering a rare clause, which will allow making his exit smooth. Read in Malayalam

Messi has even told Barcelona that he will not undergo the Covid-19 test this weekend, which is mandatory for all at the club before they resume training for next season.

Former Barcelona captain and Messi’s teammate Carles Puyol was the first player to bid farewell to the Argentine superstar, whose decision sent the football world into a meltdown.

Messi joined Barcelona aged 13. He made the first team debut at 16 and since then, helped them scale unprecedented heights, and established the Catalan side as the best football club in the world.

What is the clause that Messi has triggered?

In September last year, it emerged that a clause in Messi’s contract allowed him to unilaterally leave the club at the end of each season.

The clause was inserted due to a hefty buyout package, which would make a normal transfer unaffordable for most clubs. However, as per the contract, Messi is liable to inform the club on or before May 31, the date when a football contract generally ends worldwide, as it marks the end of a season.

So if May 31 was his deadline, why is Messi triggering it now?

According to Spanish sports daily ‘Marca’, this is because of the prevailing Covid-19 situation, which has severely altered all contracts.

This year, because of the pandemic, the football season did not end by May 31. Barcelona were leading the Spanish League, which had been suspended, and still in contention in the Champions League, where they had drawn the first leg of their quarterfinal with Napoli 1-1. Now that the season is officially over, Messi has triggered the clause.

Will Barcelona accept it?

Barcelona, the Associated Press has reported, have confirmed they have received the request from Messi. However, according to Spanish media, the club is likely to examine the legality of Messi’s belated request.

Don’t miss from Explained: Five reasons for Barcelona’s 2-8 Champions League humiliation

What happens if the club does not accept Messi’s request?

In such a scenario, Messi will have the option to put in a transfer request. ‘Marca’ reported that last Friday he spoke to Barcelona’s new coach Ronald Koeman. and has already shared his intentions. Once Messi officially asks for a move to another club, the buyout clause will come into play.

In football, a buyout clause in a contract indicates an asking price set, which if met in a transfer bid, must be accepted by the club. In Messi’s case, the release clause is set at 700 million euros. That means, if a club manages to cough up that much money, Barcelona will be obliged to sell the player.

Are there any clubs willing to sign him?

Multiple reports in the Spanish and English press have said that the two Manchester clubs – City and United – have shown interest in signing Messi.

A move to City, who have deep pockets thanks to their Gulf owners, would mean Messi will play under Pep Guardiola, with whom he had some of his best years.

Italian giants Inter Milan, too, are in the fray. Such a move, should it happen, will be similar to the one made by Messi’s arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo, who left Real Madrid to join Juventus a couple of seasons ago.

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But in the end, why does Messi want to leave Barcelona?

For quite some time now, reports have emerged out of Spain about Messi being disillusioned with the club management, and its president Josep Bartomeu in particular.

Messi was unhappy that in the last five years, the club let go of several key players, including Brazilian star Neymar, who was sold to French side Paris Saint-Germain. In fact, he even urged the club management to re-sign Neymar last year, and cast doubt over the sincerity of their efforts when they could not seal the deal.

Then, a few months ago, it was reported that the club had hired a social media company to praise Bartomeu and the Barca board while undermining Messi, his teammate Gerard Pique, and former manager Guardiola, among others.

Tensions peaked a few weeks ago when the talks between the Barca board and players could not reach an agreement on a pay-cut following the outbreak of the pandemic. Messi spoke openly against the management for the first time, saying in a social media post that “certain people in the club were trying to cast a few players in an unfavourable light”.

Barcelona’s embarrassing defeat to Bayern in the Champions League last week is seen as the tipping point. The result, experts said, highlighted the ongoing problems at the fabled club and demanded a complete overhaul.

There have also been counterclaims that Messi was part of the problem at Barcelona due to his high wages, which severely affected the club’s finances.

Will the transfer actually go through?

That’s a million-dollar question, quite literally. There have been several instances in the past where Messi has been linked to a move away from Barcelona, but this is the first time that the club has acknowledged that a formal request has been made. There are suggestions that this could be to drive out Bartomeu from the club before next year’s elections.

It must be noted that even with Argentina, Messi had ‘retired’ after developing differences with the country’s federation. He made a U-turn and returned to the international fold after changes in the higher management.

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