Barcelona’s wantaway star Lionel Messi has drawn another line under his involvement with the Catalan club by refusing to show for pre-season training and COVID-19 tests at the club.
Spanish newspaper Marca reported that Messi’s decision to no-show was akin to the player “going to war” with the famous club, while La Vanguardia reported that Messi would make his intentions clear via burofax (protected certified email service) as he is all set to refuse to attend new boss Ronald Koeman’s first training session with the club.
His intentions were confirmed Sunday morning when it was reported that Messi did not attend the club’s pre-season medical meeting.
Players arrived for COVID-19 tests early Sunday morning, but Messi was not among them, despite being due at the training ground at 10:15am local time. Players had been given staggered appointments throughout the morning, but Messi did not attend his planned timeslot.
Messi had reportedly already informed current Barca president Josep Bartomeu of his intended no-show.
Messi used the same burofax service to informed the club on Tuesday that he wants to leave Barcelona immediately as the club faced increased drama following their 8-2 hammering at the hands of Bayern Munich in the Champions League semifinals.
According to Spanish media, lawyers representing Messi have stated that he does not need to attend training as he has already expressed his desire to leave the club and therefore his contract has ended.
His contract contains a clause that states that Messi would be able to leave the club for free if he had requested it by June 10.
However, his lawyers will reportedly argue that the June 10 date – nominally the end of the season – is irrelevant given the delays to the 2019/20 season as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
If Messi remains under contract, which officially expires in 2021, the player will be subject to an $833 million release clause – a fee that has been set prohibitively high to avoid the club losing him cheaply.
A battle between Messi’s lawyers and the club looks sure to follow, with Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Internazionale all believed to be monitoring his situation closely.