Lionel Messi has failed to report for coronavirus testing at Barcelona’s training complex as he continues his battle to leave the club.
Messi’s decision not to attend means he will be unable to participate in Ronald Koeman’s first training session as Barcelona’s new head coach on Monday afternoon.
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It is understood the 33-year-old warned the club in advance via Burofax – a form of recorded delivery provided by Spain’s postal service – that he was not going to be present.
Messi has told Barcelona that he wants to leave this summer and has requested a meeting with the board to find a resolution.
Messi wants to exercise a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club for free at the end of each season.
However, Barcelona are adamant they will not negotiate to allow Messi to leave before the end of his deal, which expires next June.
They also argue that the clause in Messi’s deal has expired and that the only way he will be allowed to leave the Nou Camp is if a buyer pays his €700m release clause.
Messi’s lawyers say Barcelona should show good faith and honour the clause allowing him to walk away for nothing because the season was extended until August – beyond the deadline for him to exercise the clause.
If Messi does manage to negotiate his Barcelona exit, Manchester City are currently the favourites to sign him.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner’s push to depart the Nou Camp comes after Barcelona finished the season without a trophy for the first time in 12 years and ended the campaign with a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League.
Analysis: Meeting to firm up move away from Barca
Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol:
“I think the situation is that Messi wants a meeting with the Barcelona board to reiterate his desire that he wants to leave.
“Barcelona’s position is not going to change. Messi and his representatives think there is a clause in his contract which means he can leave for nothing this summer.
“I think the message he will get in that meeting from Barcelona is ‘you are not going anywhere for free, if you want to leave we believe your contract says that there is a release clause of €700m, that is what it will take’.”
Insight: ‘Meeting did not go well for Messi’
Spanish football expert Alvaro Montero told Sky Sports News the seeds for Messi’s decision were sown when he met new boss Ronald Koeman last week:
“The main thing is that the meeting last Friday with Ronald Koeman was not as good as they expected for a football club like Barcelona.
“The meeting with Koeman didn’t go well, from Messi’s opinion.
“Koeman told him that he didn’t count, for example, with players such as Arturo Vidal or Luis Suarez. And Messi didn’t like that.
“The way of Koeman treating him in the media and the way he has expressed the way he wants to work in Barcelona wasn’t liked by Messi, so I think that was the situation.”
Analysis: Man City is Messi’s best option
Spanish football journalist Alvaro Montero on Sky Sports News:
“Manchester City is the best option because of the money, because of the Premier League and because of Pep Guardiola. Put everything together and it is a good situation for Messi.
“This evening in Spain, on a television programme, they said that Manchester United could be an option. Many people in Italy are saying that Inter [Milan] could be an option. I don’t think so because there is a difference in the financial situation of the Premier League and Italy, France, Spain or Germany.
“Of course, the Premier League is also maybe the best league in the world so I think Premier League plus Manchester City plus Guardiola is a good cocktail altogether.
“We know the union of Guardiola and Messi at Barcelona eight or nine years ago was amazing. Maybe the best team in the world ever. I would say there is a huge possibility of Manchester City and I would say they are the first ones in this race.”
Carra: Man City with Messi ‘not unbeatable’
Jamie Carragher admitted he would relish watching Lionel Messi playing in the Premier League, but said he does not believe the signing would make Manchester City unbeatable.
“I’d love to see Messi in the Premier League,” Jamie Carragher told Sky Sports.
“I want to to watch him and I want to analyse him and look at him on Monday Night Football. The only place he can really go is Manchester City with the history he’s got with the manager and with the financial clout the club have got.”
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