Days after dropping the bombshell that he wanted to leave Barcelona, Lionel Messi on Friday said, rather reluctantly, he would continue playing for his childhood club for at least one more year.
Messi’s decision, however, seems forced more than out of choice. In an interview to ‘Goal’, the Argentine forward said the reason he has changed his mind is simply because he would “never go to court against Barca”.
On August 26, Messi sent a burofax – a court-recognised service in Spain used to send secure documents – to Barcelona, stating he wanted to trigger the clause that allowed him to leave the club at the end of every season.
The clause was inserted in his contract last September and it allowed Messi to unilaterally leave the club at the end of each season. The only condition was Messi had to inform the club of his intention before June 10 each year, considering that the club football season usually ends by the first week of June.
And if Messi chose to leave Barcelona without giving the notice, his suitors would have to pay the Catalan side €700 million, which is the forward’s buyout fee.
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The legal dilemma
The hefty buyout package, coupled with Messi’s annual wage of $156 million a year, made a normal, off-season transfer unaffordable for most clubs. So, Messi told Barcelona he wanted to leave, citing the exit clause in his contract.
Barcelona, however, did not play ball. Messi told ‘Goal’ in the interview: “I thought and was sure that I was free to leave, the president always said that at the end of the season I could decide if I stayed or not. Now they cling to the fact that I did not say it before June 10, when it turns out that on June 10 we were competing for La Liga in the middle of this awful coronavirus and this disease altered all the season.”
The conflicting stand taken by both sides meant the situation could be solved only if Messi took the club to the court. That, however, would have been a long-drawn process and given that the football season in Europe begins later this month, a court battle would not have served anyone’s purpose.
Hence, Messi claims he took the high ground. “There was another way and it was to go to trial,” he said. “I would never go to court against Barca because it is the club that I love, which gave me everything since I arrived.”
Does this mean Messi will leave Barcelona after the end of the 2020-21 season?
That cannot be said for sure. It is evident that Messi wanted to leave the club because of his issues with the board and president Josep Bartomeu in particular. That does not change.
It was reported that a reunion with his former manager Pep Guardiola was on the cards after it emerged that Manchester City had lined up a bid to sign him. From Messi’s statements, it is evident that he wanted to leave Barcelona and it was only the complications in the exit clause that made him stay.
“… This is the reason why I am going to continue in the club. Now I am going to continue in the club because the president told me that the only way to leave was to pay the €700 million clause, and that this is impossible.”
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