Man City Transfer News RECAP Lionel Messi to City Latest on Barcelona buyout clause

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Stephen Taylor Heath, Head of Sports Law at JMW Solicitors, spoke of the complications of Lionel Messi’s contractual situation in Barcelona:

“The proposed release clause for Messi being allowed to leave without a transfer fee provided he has given notice within a certain number of days from the initial date of the Champions League final in May (it ie in a number of days after the end of the season) is an interesting legal question. When the football season was put on hold, there was a lot of discussion about whether player contracts that were to expire at the end of the season would be deemed to be extended until the end of the season.

“The generally accepted position was that in law the player could claim that his contract had expired on the specified calendar date, even though when the contract was concluded the mutual assumption was that the season would have ended by then. In other words, the suspension of the season made no contractual difference.

“Applying this principle in reverse to Messi, the club would argue that the date in May on which Messi was to give notice to leave was independent of the end of the season. Therefore, by giving notice now, he could not leave until next May. The club will also argue that the reason they needed advance notice in May was that they had enough time to recruit a replacement during the closing season and, given that the transfer window has also changed, they would have less time to do so under the current circumstances.

“Messi will argue that the whole point of the clause is to allow him to assess what he wants to do at the end of a season and therefore under the circumstances, the application of the May date is not in the spirit of the agreement. Moreover, such a clause allowing a player to break their contract without a transfer fee is only available to superstars of Messi’s stature, as these clauses normally involve a ‘buyout’ for a minimum / fixed transfer fee.

“Given the supposed minimum contractual transfer fee of £ 700million, if Messi leaves without being able to rely on the mentioned clause, the stakes are obviously high and the club and Messi may prefer to come to a solution rather than plead . The club acquiring Messi will want to have certainty as to the basis on which they acquire Messi rather than having the costs determined by a court given the stakes are so high.The suggested release clause for Messi to have the right to leave without a transfer fee provided he has given notice within a certain number of days from the initial date of the Champions League final in May (i.e. (i.e. in a number of days after the end of the season) is an interesting legal question. When the football season was put on hold, there was a lot of talk about whether player contracts that were due to expire at the end of the season would be deemed extended until the end of the season.

“The generally accepted position was that in law the player could claim that his contract had expired on the specified calendar date, even though when the contract was concluded the mutual assumption was that the season would have ended by then. In other words, the suspension of the season made no contractual difference.

“Applying this principle in reverse to Messi, the club would argue that the date in May on which Messi was to give notice to leave was independent of the end of the season. Therefore, by giving notice now, he could not leave until next May. The club will also argue that the reason they needed advance notice in May was that they had enough time to recruit a replacement during the closing season and, given that the transfer window has also changed, they would have less time to do so under the current circumstances.

“Messi will argue that the whole point of the clause is to allow him to assess what he wants to do at the end of a season and therefore, under the circumstances, the application of the May date is not in the spirit of the agreement. Moreover, such a clause allowing a player to break his contract without transfer fees is only available to superstars of Messi’s stature, as these clauses normally involve a ‘buyout’ for a minimum / fixed transfer fee.

“Considering the supposed minimum contractual transfer fee of 700 million euros, if Messi leaves without being able to invoke the mentioned clause, the stakes are obviously high and the club and Messi may prefer to reach a solution rather than plead. The club acquiring Messi will want to have certainty as to the basis on which they acquire Messi rather than having the costs determined by a court given the stakes are so high.

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