Lionel Messi has already decided to join Manchester City after informing Barcelona that he wants to leave on a free transfer, according to reports in Brazil.
In a burofax which was sent to Barcelona’s board on Tuesday, the 33-year-old indicated that he wants to exercise a clause in his contract which allows him to leave Camp Nou for free this summer.
Barcelona argue that the clause in Messi’s contract expired on June 10 and insist that the Argentine can only leave if his €700 million (£629m) buyout fee is paid.
Messi’s camp, however, believe that the clause still applies as the coronavirus pandemic has delayed Barcelona’s season and therefore the player’s decision to leave the club.
Barcelona’s campaign ended in humiliation nearly two weeks ago when they were knocked out of the Champions League following an 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich.
According to Esporte Interativo, Messi has now chosen to join Manchester City following talks with Pep Guardiola.
Messi and Guardiola already have a strong relationship following their successful spell together at Barcelona, and the report claims that the Argentine is attracted by the prospect of joining up with his former manager at City.
But City must now reach an agreement with Barcelona for Messi, whose contract is due to expire next summer.
Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is now under increasing pressure to step down following Messi’s decision, while the club’s hierarchy are due to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the future of their captain.
Barcelona supporters called for Bartomeu’s resignation outside Camp Nou on Tuesday evening in response to Messi’s push to leave the club.
Messi spent four years playing under Guardiola at Barcelona and together they won three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies.
When asked about Messi potentially leaving Barcelona earlier this year, Guardiola replied: ‘He is a player from Barcelona and he will stay there, that’s my wish for him to stay there.
‘I’m not going to talk about players playing for other clubs.
‘I think he will finish his career there, that’s my wish.’
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