La Liga gives boost to Barca’s hopes of keeping player
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.
But La Liga have given a boost to Barca’s hopes of keeping Messi by announcing that the release clause in his contract, set at 700 million euros (Sh90 billion), still applies.
Messi and his lawyers believe a separate clause means he should be allowed to leave for free this summer.
According to reports, the Argentina star believes the clause in his contract that allows him to terminate it at the end of each season - and thereby become a free agent - still applies because 2019-20 was extended to August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, Barcelona appear adamant this clause has long since expired and that the player’s €700m buyout option must be paid if he is to be released.
In a statement issued on Sunday, LaLiga insisted Messi’s contract can only be terminated by the player if the release clause is paid in full.
Without passing a coronavirus test, Messi will be unable to join team-mates for Ronald Koeman’s first training session on Monday, with the start of the new La Liga season less than two weeks away.
Messi was due for testing at 10.15am on Sunday but according to sources at Barcelona, 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 those seen arriving for tests, despite both players 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 evening.
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 the only way the 33-year-old will be allowed to depart now is via the payment of 700 million euros.
La Liga, who were always likely to take the side of the club, agree that Messi’s release clause is still valid. - AFP