A clause in Messi’s contract allows him to step down at the end of each season, but he did not notify Barcelona of his intention to do so before the June 10 deadline. Its representatives say that date should be postponed as the season has been extended until the end of August, while the club remain adamant it can no longer leave. Both sides have stuck to these positions.
Messi’s claim that he could leave for free was not waterproof, but his behavior since the notification of his departure was aimed at reinforcing the idea that he had exercised that right and was in fact no longer a Barcelona player. That’s why he didn’t show up for preseason training. But testing this legally is expensive, slow, and risky. This exposes Messi and the club signing him to possible penalties and possible transfer fees set by the court.
It has also not yet served to support Barcelona in a corner. Although the decision to unilaterally pull out may not be final given his failure to do so before June 10 – at which point the season was still not over and City had not seen their European ban overturned by the arbitral tribunal of sport – the threat of a one-sided start, possibly on a free one, has put pressure on Barcelona to seek a solution.
The same goes for Messi’s contract expiring next year. Barcelona’s economic crisis would also encourage a sell-off, it was believed, but Bartomeu refused to budge.
The city does not intend to be drawn into a legal battle, nor can it risk being responsible for huge transfer fees; their hope has been to get Messi for free or at least to cut costs. Although they have communicated with Messi, they have not made a formal contract offer and must wait for him and Barcelona to reach a negotiated settlement. For now, there is a dead end. City initially believed there was a chance they could sign the six-time Ballon d’Or winner, but had no illusions it would be easy.
Messi has not spoken publicly. With no clear solution in front of him, he must decide on his next move.