Koeman Uncertain About Messi’s Future At Barcelona

 

Photo Credit: Planet Futbol

 

Ronald Koeman has admitted he has no idea if Lionel Messi will leave Barcelona next summer and said it is not his job to persuade the Argentinian to stay. 

Messi made an attempt to leave Barcelona this summer before backing down. He can talk to other clubs in January and leave for free when his contract expires in June, with Manchester City expected to make a renewed attempt to lure the 33-year-old away from Camp Nou.

“Messi still has a contract and in my opinion he has to stay here,” said Koeman in a press conference on Friday, ahead of Saturday’s crunch La Liga game away at Atletico Madrid.

“But I am not the person that has to try to make him stay here. We will see about his future, still he is a Barcelona player. Nobody knows what will happen with the future of Messi.”

After returning from a 15-hour trip back to Barcelona on Wednesday morning following international duty, a frustrated Messi faced questions about his relationship with French forward Antoine Griezmann.

A former agent of Griezmann’s had claimed Messi was difficult to play with at Barca, to which Messi said: “I’m tired of always being the problem with everything at the club.”

When the comments were put to Koeman, he said: “I can understand why Leo was fuming. People should show a lot more respect to people like Lionel Messi.

“After such a long trip, to ask Messi about Antoine is a lack of respect, once again to create controversy.

“I have not seen any problem between the two of them, not in the changing room on the training pitch. There are enough pictures who showing them working well together.

“Someone has said something and that someone has not been a client of Griezmann for three years. It’s bullshit.”

Messi was one of a number of players to return from long trips to play for their countries and Koeman complained that La Liga’s schedule has Barcelona facing Atletico Madrid at 9:00 pm on Saturday.

“And then we hae have to play in Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday night,” said Koeman. “It doesn’t help the big teams or the players.”

Barcelona will be without the injured Sergio Busquets and Ansu Fati at the Wanda Metropolitano while Atletico’s Luis Suarez will be denied the chance to face his former club, after he tested positive for coronavirus.

Atletico will go nine points clear of Barca if they win but Diego Simeone’s side have not beaten the Catalans in La Liga since 2010.

“It’s an important match and we want to get a good result but La Liga is very long and a lot can happen,” said Koeman.

-AFP

Messi, Inter, Camavinga – What To Look Out For In Europe This Weekend

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) challenges Nastic´s defense during a friendly football match between FC Barcelona and Nastic at the Johan Cruyff stadium in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on September 12, 2020. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

Lionel Messi will be back in a Barcelona shirt in La Liga, while Inter Milan begin their bid to end Juventus’ grip on the Serie A title and potential challengers face off in Germany and France.

AFP Sport picks out some of the standout action in Europe this weekend:

– Eyes on Messi on Koeman debut -Barcelona v Villarreal, Sunday 1900 GMT

Lionel Messi is staying at Barcelona for at least one more year and on Sunday he will be the centre of attention as the Catalans belatedly kick off their campaign in La Liga.

The game, behind closed doors, against Unai Emery’s Villarreal is also new coach Ronald Koeman’s first competitive outing in charge after one of the most turbulent summers in Barcelona’s history.

While Messi stayed against his will, Luis Suarez has departed for Atletico Madrid, following Ivan Rakitic, Arturo Vidal and Nelson Semedo out of the door. Miralem Pjanic and the Portuguese international Trincao have come in.

Barcelona are a team in transition but there is no doubt that, as long as Messi is still there, anything is possible.

“Barca are a great side. I’m pleased that Messi has stayed and that we will continue to enjoy having him in La Liga,” said Emery, whose own team has already played twice, winning one and drawing one.

– Inter with point to prove -Inter Milan v Fiorentina, Saturday 1845 GMT

Antonio Conte’s Inter get their Serie A campaign underway against Fiorentina at San Siro having been given the opening weekend off due to their run to the Europa League final last month.

The Nerazzurri lost that game to Sevilla and also finished a point behind Juventus in the Serie A title race, so now their aim is to end the Turin side’s long domination of Italian football.

With Juve having beaten Sampdoria 3-0 in Andrea Pirlo’s first game as a coach, Inter need to get off to a good start and there will be plenty of focus on the new arrivals: Vidal but also Achraf Hakimi, the Moroccan full-back signed from Real Madrid for 40 million euros ($44.9m) after impressing on loan at Borussia Dortmund.

– Bayern’s rivals left to rebuild -Bayer Leverkusen v RB Leipzig, Saturday 1330 GMT

The Bundesliga is a hugely entertaining league but once again there are doubts as to whether any team can seriously threaten Bayern Munich’s hegemony.

Dortmund are the most likely contenders, while it remains to be seen if Leverkusen or Leipzig can mount a real challenge this time.

Leipzig finished third last season and reached the Champions League semi-finals. Leverkusen were fifth, just behind Borussia Moenchengladbach.

Julian Nagelsmann’s Leipzig remain the last team to hold Bayern while Peter Bosz’s Leverkusen are the last side to beat the Bavarians in Munich. But both teams lost their star player over the summer, with Leipzig’s Timo Werner and Leverkusen’s Kai Havertz moving to Chelsea.

So can they successfully replace them and compete again?

Leipzig this week paid Crystal Palace 20 million euros ($23m) for Alexander Sorloth, who is a direct Werner replacement. Meanwhile, Leverkusen recently signed Czech forward Patrik Schick from Roma. He was on loan at Leipzig last season.

Nagelsmann’s side were 3-1 winners against Mainz on the opening weekend but Leverkusen were held 0-0 at Wolfsburg. Saturday’s clash, before a limited crowd, will provide a measure of where both sides currently stand.

– Can somebody new challenge in France? -Saint-Etienne v Rennes, Saturday 1500 GMT

While Paris Saint-Germain have endured a slow start to their French title defence having been handicapped by a coronavirus outbreak, suspensions, and injuries, there is a fresh look for now at the top of Ligue 1.

Saint-Etienne and Rennes are level on points at the summit and they meet on Saturday amid hope that this campaign does not simply turn into another PSG procession.

Nobody realistically believes Saint-Etienne can add to their record tally of 10 titles though, even if manager Claude Puel is so far enjoying some success after overhauling his squad and promoting youth.

Rennes are a more interesting case, and not just because in 17-year-old midfielder Eduardo Camavinga they have possibly the hottest young property in world football.

The Brittany side finished third in the last, curtailed season and have been busy investing ahead of a first appearance in the Champions League. They have just sold goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to Chelsea, but they are certainly going to be worth watching this season.

 

 

-AFP

Messi Scores Twice As Barcelona Win Friendly

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) challenges Girona’s Malian midfielder Ibrahima Kebe (R) during a friendly football match between FC Barcelona and Girona at the Johan Cruyff stadium in Sant Joan Despi near Barcelona on September 16, 2020. (Photo by Josep LAGO / AFP)

 

Lionel Messi scored twice on Wednesday as Barcelona beat second-division Girona 3-1 in a preseason friendly.

Messi helped set up Philippe Coutinho, back from his loan at Bayern Munich, for the first goal after 21 minutes.

The Argentine scored his first after 45 minutes, spinning on the edge of the penalty area and drilling a shot in off the base of the far post. He scored his second, with a deflected shot, after 50 minutes.

He went off after an hour.

Messi only returned to training at the start of last week after saying he wanted to leave the club.

Messi started Barcelona’s first friendly on Saturday, playing 45 minutes without scoring in a 3-1 victory over third-tier Gimnastica Tarragona.

Earlier on Wednesday, La Liga president Javier Tebas said he was pleased Messi had stayed at Barcelona.

“Messi is important for our competition,” said Tebas, at an event to promote the Liga sticker collection. “He is a player who was born in our competition… and hopefully he will finish his career in our league.”

Barcelona used 20 players in Wednesday’s game at the club’s training centre but neither Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez nor Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal appeared.

Manager Ronald Koeman said after the game he had talked to Suarez and acknowledged Barcelona might not be able to sell him.

“If finally he does not find a team and ends up staying, he will be one more player for the squad,” said Koeman.

Barcelona are due to start their league campaign on September 26 or 27 against Villarreal.

 

Messi Joins Exclusive Club Of Sporting Billionaires

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi smiles during a friendly football match between FC Barcelona and Nastic at the Johan Cruyff stadium in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on September 12, 2020. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

Lionel Messi may have had to stay put at Barcelona but the Argentine legend did succeed in joining one new club this year — the one reserved for sporting billionaires, according to Forbes magazine.

The Argentine striker’s career earnings of over one billion dollars (840 million euros) places the six-time Ballon d’Or winner in a group of mega-wealthy sports figures containing just Tiger Woods, Floyd Mayweather and his great rival on the pitch, Cristiano Ronaldo.

Forbes said that in 2020 Messi was the best paid footballer in the world with an income of $126 million from his Barca salary ($92 million for the 2020/2021 season) and $34 million from sponsors and other sources.

The 33-year-old knocked Juventus forward Ronaldo ($117 million) off the top of the football salary chart with Paris Saint-Germain’s Neymar ($96 million) in third place.

Forbes’ top 10 earning players made a combined $570 million this season, a jump of 11 percent despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic to European leagues and the global economy.

Michael Jordan is also in the billionaire’s club but the basketball legend’s fortune has largely come after retirement through his longstanding contract with Nike and acquisition of NBA franchise Charlotte Hornets.

Messi remains at Barcelona this season after conceding defeat in his attempt to leave without triggering his 700-million euro release.

AFP

Messi Plays 45 Minutes In Barca Friendly Win As La Liga Kicks Off

Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi (C) challenges Nastic´s defense during a friendly football match between FC Barcelona and Nastic at the Johan Cruyff stadium in Sant Joan Despi, near Barcelona, on September 12, 2020. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

 

Lionel Messi started and played 45 minutes in Barcelona’s first pre-season friendly on Saturday as Ronald Koeman showed no hesitation in reintegrating the Argentinian.

Barca beat third tier side Gimnastic Tarragona 3-1, with Ousmane Dembele opening the scoring on his first appearance since November.

Antoine Griezmann and Philippe Coutinho, who was also returning after his loan spell at Bayern Munich, then each scored penalties, either side of Javier Bonilla pulling one back for the visitors.

But Messi’s return at the Johan Cruyff Stadium was perhaps the biggest plus for Koeman, who was taking charge of his first game since being appointed coach last month.

Messi also led the team out wearing the armband after Barcelona had confirmed earlier on Saturday that he will continue as captain this season.

Both club and player appear keen to put on a united front, at least for now, ahead of their return to La Liga later this month.

After condemning the board last week and admitting he had been forced to stay, Messi arrived early on Monday for his return to pre-season training and worked on the squad’s days off in a bid to catch up.

Koeman, meanwhile, said last month he only wanted players who wanted to be at Barcelona but he was full of praise for Messi on Friday, calling him “the best”, and backed that up in his first team selection.

Messi played 45 minutes as part of Koeman’s plan to field two different line-ups in each half.

Yet his starting front three of Messi, Griezmann and Dembele looked suspiciously like a first-choice attack, with Dembele making his first appearance since he tore his hamstring nine months ago.

Koeman also handed starts to youngsters Carles Alena and Pedri in midfield while Jordi Alba, Clement Lenglet, Gerard Pique and Sergi Roberto formed a familiar back four, ahead of Neto, who is standing in for the injured Marc-Andre ter Stegen in goal.

New signing Francisco Trincao, Coutinho, Frenkie de Jong and 19-year-old American international Konrad de la Fuente were among those to come on for the second half.

There was no place in the squad for either Luis Suarez or Arturo Vidal, who have both been told they can leave.

Barcelona will not play their first La Liga game against Villarreal until round three at the end of the month, having been granted extra time off due to their involvement in last season’s Champions League.

Reigning champions Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are also sitting out the first weekend.

But seven games are scheduled this Saturday and Sunday, the first of them finishing goalless between Eibar and Celta Vigo.

Still without fans due to the coronavirus pandemic, Spain’s top flight got off to a slow start at Ipurua, where Eibar finished with 10 men after Pape Diop was sent off in the 87th minute.

Granada then picked up where they left off last season by defeating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 at Los Carmenes while newly-promoted Cadiz, back in La Liga for the first time in 14 years, lost 2-0 at home to Osasuna.

AFP

Messi’s Botched Departure Was Not ‘A Serious Worry,’ Says La Liga President

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018, Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

 

La Liga president Javier Tebas has said he was never seriously worried about the impact on the league if Lionel Messi had left Barcelona this summer.

Messi admitted defeat on Friday in his attempt to find a way out of Barca, insisting the club’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu had “broken his word” over an exit clause in his contract.

La Liga had previously intervened in the dispute by announcing Messi’s 700-million-euro release clause still applied, a statement later rejected by Messi’s agent and father Jorge.

Asked on Monday if Messi’s departure had been a serious worry for him, Tebas said: “A serious worry, no. A worry, yes.

“We always want Leo to be with us, I’ve said many times he is the best player in history and as president of La Liga, I would like him to finish his career in this competition.

“La Liga has been working for quite a few years to ensure that as a brand it is above individual players and clubs so the value is not affected by one or two players.

“But there was some worry because after 20 years with us, you want him to be here and not in another league.”

 

File photo: President of La Liga speaking during the official launch of Spanish Football League La Liga office in Singapore. ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP

 

Tebas also said Messi’s departure would not have affected La Liga’s income from broadcast rights deals. “I don’t think so because we have already sold 90 per cent of the rights for the next four seasons, so I don’t think the departure of Messi would affect that issue,” he said.

– New season beckons –

The 2020/21 La Liga season begins on Friday, with Granada against Athletic Bilbao.

But last year’s top four, including reigning champions Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Sevilla are all sitting out the opening weekend.

They have been given longer to recover after their involvement in last season’s European competitions.

Matches will still be without fans as Spain wrestles with a rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

La Liga had hoped stadiums would be able to take a small percentage of their capacity in September but those plans have been shelved.

“It is a difficult question because it’s not up to La Liga,” said Tebas. “I believe that to see stadiums like before it can only happen with a vaccine.

“I hope it can be in January or February. Several governments have already announced it and that would be the beginning of the end of this bad dream.”

The pandemic has had a huge impact on La Liga’s clubs, with many suffering considerable financial losses from the lack of matchday income.

Some of the biggest clubs have been the worst affected, with Madrid yet to sign a new player this summer while Barcelona are desperately trying to offload their most expensive assets.

Several teams have also had to quarantine players who tested positive upon returning for pre-season.

“It will be a season of surprises,” predicted Tebas. “The big clubs are suffering the consequences of the crisis while the not so big ones, who depend more on television income, can make better signings and make the league more equal. It will be very interesting.”

AFP

Messi Returns To Barcelona Training Ground

Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi gestures during the Spanish league football match between FC Barcelona and Levante UD at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, on February 2, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP.

 

Lionel Messi arrived at Barcelona’s training ground on Monday as he begins to reintegrate with the team following his failed attempt to leave the club this summer. 

Messi was seen driving into the Ciutat Esportiva in Sant Joan Despi at just after 4:00 pm (1400 GMT) on Monday, where he is expected to take part in training for the first time under new coach Ronald Koeman.

Details later…

Messi Misses Training Again After Decision To Stay At Barcelona

A file photo of Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi during a Spanish league football match at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on February 2, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP.

 

Lionel Messi was a no-show at training with Barcelona despite his decision to stay at the club under sufferance, journalists at the training ground said on Saturday morning.

The Argentine superstar announced on Friday he had been forced to remain at Barcelona, claiming after club president Josep Maria Bartomeu broke his word to let him leave.

It came after 10 days of tension since his bombshell fax telling Barcelona he wanted out.

But while other players including Jordi Alba and Philippe Coutinho arrived for the session, Messi failed to appear at the Joan Gamper training complex for the session which began at 0730 GMT.

Last Sunday Messi deliberately skipped the mandatory coronavirus test for Barcelona players.

According to local media, Messi must first pass the Covid-19 test with a return to the squad possibly on Monday.

He could then figure in new coach Ronald Koeman’s first fixture, a friendly against third division Nastic on September 12.

AFP

Messi Can Leave Barcelona For Free, Father Tells La Liga

In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Jorge Messi, the father and agent of Lionel Messi, published a response to La Liga on Friday, insisting the Barcelona striker’s 700-million-euro release clause no longer applies.  

Messi senior claims the release clause is removed once the player takes up the option in his contract to leave for free, which Messi’s side believe he did when he notified Barca by burofax on August 25.

In the letter addressed to La Liga president Javier Tevas, Jorge Messi claims to quote a clause in Messi’s contract that says: “This release clause will not apply when the player’s decision to unilaterally rescind the contract takes effect from the end of the 2019-2020 season.”

La Liga had backed up Barcelona’s position last weekend by announcing that Messi’s release clause remains valid.

And the Spanish league reacted almost immediately by reiterating their stance and saying Jorge Messi’s interpretation of the contract was “out of context” and “far removed” from its wording.

Jorge Messi’s bullish statement indicates his son remains committed to leaving Barca this summer, despite suggestions the 33-year-old’s stance could be softening.

However, there has been no overt declaration that Messi will still depart, perhaps offering some hope to Barcelona supporters.

The validity of the release clause in Messi’s contract is important because its existence means Messi could be liable to pay the amount himself if he joined another club but lost a subsequent legal battle in court.

Barcelona believe the option in the player’s contract that allowed him to leave for free expired on June 10.

Messi’s side insist the deadline was the end of the season, which was extended into August due to the pandemic.

Notably, Jorge Messi did not mention a specific date when quoting that clause in his statement.

“We do not know which contract you have analysed and what is the basis that leads you to conclude there was an applicable release clause if the player decided to unilaterally end his contract at the end of the 19-20 season,” he wrote.

He adds that it was an “obvious error on your part”.

Messi’s father had held talks with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Thursday but both sides reiterated their arguments and no agreement was reached.

 

AFP

Inter Milan Have No Plans To Sign Messi – Club Official

 In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid.  JAVIER SORIANO / AFP
In this file photo taken on November 24, 2018 Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts during the Spanish league football match between Club Atletico de Madrid and FC Barcelona at the Wanda Metropolitano stadium in Madrid. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Inter Milan have no plans to try and sign Lionel Messi nor the financial means to engineer a deal for the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, a club official said Tuesday. 

“I don’t know where some ideas can come from,” Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio told Sky Sport Italia. The Serie A runners-up have been linked with a move for Messi along with Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain if he leaves Barcelona.

“No coach, no president wouldn’t want Messi in their team. But the reality is very different,” he added, as the Italian transfer window officially opened on Tuesday.

“Our reality is a sensible transfer market.”

Ausilio also said the club was in negotiations with Roma to sign Serbian defender Aleksandar Kolarov while insisting Lautaro Martinez will stay put despite longstanding interest from Barcelona.

 

AFP

Messi Weighs Up Pre-Season Return As Barca Insist On $833m Release Clause

File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s second goal during the UEFA Champions League quarter-final football match between Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez / POOL / AFP)

 

 

The first indication of how determined Lionel Messi is to leave Barcelona and how ugly this dispute could become will be gauged at the club’s training ground on Sunday.

Barca’s greatest ever player is due at the Ciutat Esportiva on Sunday morning for coronavirus tests, which must be taken and passed if he is to join Ronald Koeman’s first pre-season session on Monday.

Messi’s attendance or absence will be his first public demonstration since the burofax that stated his intention to leave for free arrived in the offices of Camp Nou on Tuesday evening and shocked the world of football.

Barcelona’s newly-appointed sporting director Ramon Planes said on Wednesday the expectation was Messi would be present on Sunday for testing and then training on Monday as usual.

But while Messi was initially inclined to comply and avoid escalating tensions further, his lawyers have since advised him to stay away, Catalunya Radio were reporting on Saturday.

Taking part in the team’s pre-season programme ahead of La Liga starting on September 12 could damage his legal case if his departure ends up being settled in court.

Barcelona insist a clause included in Messi’s contract that allowed him to go for free this summer had to be activated by June 10 and is therefore no longer valid.

The only way Messi will be allowed to depart, the club argue, is through his release clause, set at 700 million euros ($833 million) until his contract expires on June 30, 2021.

 

 

Barcelona's Argentinian forward Lionel Messi bends over during the Spanish league football match between Real Valladolid FC and FC Barcelona at the Jose Zorrilla stadium in Valladolid on July 11, 2020. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentinian forward Lionel Messi bends over during the Spanish league football match between Real Valladolid FC and FC Barcelona at the Jose Zorrilla Stadium in Valladolid on July 11, 2020. (Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP)

But Messi’s side believes the clause refers not to a specific date but to 10 days after the end of the season, which this year was extended into August due to the pandemic, with the Champions League final only played last weekend.

If the Argentinian refuses to show up for tests on Sunday, and by extension pre-season training on Monday, it will suggest there is no going back.

The assumption will be that Messi is prepared to do whatever it takes to quit the club he joined as a 13-year-old boy, and where most expected him to continue all the way through to retirement.

– Barca standing firm, for now –

Instead, bitterness and resentment could accompany the unthinkable process of Messi being punished by Barcelona for absence, in the form of fines or a reduction in salary.

If he returns, those supporters who stormed Camp Nou in protest this week may feel an inkling of hope.

Cajoled by team-mates — although many of them expect to leave too — Messi could be persuaded to stay.

Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona daily with close links to the board, wrote on Saturday how the club is adamant the Argentinian will remain.

“The more the days go by, the firmer the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu are in not moving from their position,” it read. “Which is not to sell and, if possible, to renew the contract of Messi.”

Yet every stance is arguably now a negotiating ploy and Messi’s return on Sunday might only offer false hope to the fans.

Bartomeu made it known through the Spanish press on Thursday that he would resign if Messi said publicly that he was the problem and agreed to change his mind.

But Messi has instead asked for a meeting, not to negotiate, but to begin facilitating an amicable and dignified departure.

“Messi’s decision to leave Barca irreversible,” read Diario Sport on Saturday.

Manchester City remain favourites to sign the 33-year-old, whose basic salary alone amounts to around 60 million euros.

If Barcelona and Messi decide to avoid a lengthy legal process, a compromise selling price of around 100 million euros could be within reach for City, while eliminating their less wealthy rivals.

Messi has reportedly spoken to City coach Pep Guardiola already but others remain in the running, including Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus.

The Italian sides would likely require a much-reduced price to afford any deal. But Juve might view the chance to combine Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as a historic sporting and commercial opportunity too good to pass up.

All of them will be watching eagerly on Sunday.

AFP

Messi Fails To Attend COVID-19 Test – Barcelona Sources

messi-
Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Lionel Messi missed a coronavirus test at Barcelona’s training ground on Sunday morning, club sources have confirmed to AFP, raising the possibility he will now boycott pre-season to force a transfer.

Without passing a coronavirus test, Messi will be unable to join team-mates for new coach Ronald Koeman’s first training session on Monday, with the start of the La Liga season less than two weeks away.

Messi was due to report for testing at 10:15am on Sunday but according to sources at Barca, he failed to show up at the Ciutat Esportiva.

The club’s captain and greatest ever player could now be punished with a fine and even a reduction in salary if the strike continues.

Luis Suarez — his best friend and strike partner — and Arturo Vidal were among players seen arriving for tests, despite both being told they should find new teams as part of a planned clear-out this summer.

The meet-up was a chance for Messi to make his first public appearance since the burofax stating his intention to leave arrived in the offices of Camp Nou on Tuesday.

Instead, his absence offers a clear indication of his determination to secure a move and how ugly this dispute could now become.

Taking part in the team’s pre-season programme could damage his legal case if his departure ends up being settled in court.

Barcelona insist a clause included in Messi’s contract that allowed him to go for free this summer had to be activated by June 10 and is therefore no longer valid.

The only way the 33-year-old will be allowed to depart, the club argue, is through his release clause, set at 700 million euros ($833 million) until his contract expires on June 30, 2021.

But Messi’s side believe the clause refers not to a specific date but to 10 days after the end of the season, which this year was extended into August due to the pandemic, with the Champions League final only played last weekend.

– Supporters still hoping –

His absence suggests he is prepared to do whatever it takes to quit the club he joined as 13-year-old boy, and where most expected him to continue all the way through to retirement.

Supporters, some of whom stormed Camp Nou in protest last week, remain hopeful Messi might still be persuaded.

Outside the training ground on Sunday morning, a young boy wearing a Messi shirt sat with his head in his hands, hoping his hero could yet return.

Mundo Deportivo, the Barcelona daily with close links to the board, reported on Saturday that the club is defiant, even if every stance now could be a negotiating ploy.

“The more the days go by, the firmer the board and president Josep Maria Bartomeu are in not moving from their position,” it read. “Which is not to sell and, if possible, to renew the contract of Messi.”

Bartomeu made it known through the Spanish press on Thursday that he would resign if Messi said publicly that he was the problem and agreed to change his mind.

But Messi has remained steadfast. His snub on Sunday comes after he asked for a meeting, not to negotiate, but to begin facilitating an amicable and dignified departure.

“Messi’s decision to leave Barca irreversible,” read Diario Sport on Saturday.

Manchester City remain favourites to sign the 33-year-old, whose basic annual salary alone amounts to around 60 million euros.

If Barcelona and Messi decide to avoid a lengthy legal process, a compromise selling price of around 100 million euros could be within reach for Abu Dhabi-owned City, while eliminating their less wealthy rivals.

Messi has reportedly spoken to City coach Pep Guardiola already but others remain in the running, including Paris Saint-Germain, Inter Milan and Juventus.

The Italian sides would likely require a much-reduced price to afford any deal. Juve might view the chance to combine Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as an historic sporting and commercial opportunity too good to pass up.

AFP