After dozens of titles, hundreds of goals and countless records, Lionel Messi's spectacular career at Barcelona could be coming to an abrupt end.
Lionel Messi has reportedly informed Barcelona that he wants to "unilaterally" terminate his contract with the Spanish giants and wishes to leave the club immediately.
Lawyers for the Argentina star sent Barca a burofax in which they announced Messi's desire to rescind his contract by triggering a release clause a club source said on Tuesday. A burofax is a service used in Spain to urgently dispatch a document that requires proof to third parties.
However, the club hinted that a legal battle could be coming and said it won't automatically grant the Argentina great his wishes.
Barcelona said the document sent by Messi referenced a clause allowing him to leave for free at the end of the season, but the deadline for triggering that clause expired in June and that it would seek legal advice. The club maintained that Messi remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.
"In principal, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now," wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.
"It's the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros."
Under the terms of the contract, the only way Messi can leave without the club's consent is if a rival side pays his buyout clause of 700 million euros or $828 million.
According to Spanish media, Messi met with new Barca coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself "more out than in" the club.
"The end of the glorious era of Leo Messi at Barcelona seems to be close. After the arrival of Ronald Koeman, what looks like the exit of his friend Luis Suarez and a difficult and turbulent end to the season, Messi told Barcelona in a fax of his intention to leave the club," said Once radio station.
Former Barca captain Carles Puyol backed Messi's wish to leave the club by writing on Twitter: "Respect and admiration, Leo.
You have all my support, friend."
Respeto y admiración, Leo. Todo mi apoyo, amigo.— Carles Puyol (@Carles5puyol) August 25, 2020
Barcelona suffered a humiliating 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals in Lisbon earlier this month, which condemned the club to a trophy-less season for the first time in 12 years and resulted in the dismissal of coach Quique Setien after barely six months in charge.
The 33-year-old who has spent his entire career — nearly two decades — at Barca and has been named world player of the year a record six times, has grown increasingly unhappy in the last 12 months with how the club is being run.
In February, he lashed out at then sporting director Eric Abidal on social media and a couple of months later turned his anger on the club hierarchy for the way in which players were forced to take a pay cut to cope with the financial hit of the coronanvirus pandemic.
After Barca surrendered the La Liga title to Real Madrid in July, Messi slammed the team as being "weak" and "vulnerable" during an uncharacteristically fiery post-match interview.
Messi arrived at Barcelona as a teenager in 2001, joining the club’s famed La Masia youth academy. He first-team debut happened in 2003 as a 16-year-old, and since then he led Barcelona to 34 titles. He holds most individual records at the club, scoring 634 goals and making 276 assists in 731 appearances with the club.
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