Lionel Messi wants out of Barcelona.
The Argentinian superstar, who has spent nearly two decades living and playing in Barcelona, informed the team he plans to exercise a clause in his contract that would release him from his deal, the team confirmed Tuesday. However, Messi may not become a free agent yet.
Barcelona contends the 33-year-old missed the deadline to trigger the clause set to expire in June, while Messi’s camp believes the deal allowed him to exercise the option until the end of the season, which was pushed to August because of the pandemic.
With no other team likely willing to pay Messi’s 700 million euro ($828 million) release clause, Barcelona appears headed for a contentious legal dispute with its longtime star.
If Messi can leave for free, though, he will have no shortage of suitors. However, only a handful of clubs could realistically afford to pay his wages even without a transfer fee — with mega-rich Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City widely seen as perhaps the most likely destinations. According to reports, Messi wants to play for Manchester City.
Messi, whose contract expires in 2021, reportedly has had increasing doubts about remaining with the team he once made the best in the world since it showed its age and decline in an embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. Messi met with new coach Ronald Koeman last week to discuss his plans, leading to a fax sent to the team on Tuesday in which he declared his desire to leave.
Messi is the club’s all-time leading goal-scorer, having led Barcelona to a record 33 titles since debuting in 2004.