Barcelona star Lionel Messi has informed the club he prefers to leave after 20 years with the organization, according to journalist Alfredo Martinez and TyC Sports. Messi told Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu via fax that he plans to opt-out via a contingency clause in his contract, allowing him to leave on a free transfer.
Messi signed his the current deal in 2017 and his contract stipulations allow him to opt-out before the start of the 2020-21 season — a route he's likely to take after a disappointing 8-2 quarterfinals loss to Bayern Munich in the UEFA Champions League earlier this month.
New Barcelona manager Ronald Koeman made a meeting with Messi his first order of business, emphasizing his plan to build around him and keep him on his squad. Yet the Dutchman's reported call with Luis Suárez and other teammates like Samuel Umtiti, Ivan Rakitic, and Arturo Vidal, telling them all their services won't be needed, has been the final straw for the Argentine megastar.
Lionel Messi has been linked to Premier League standout Manchester City and former boss Pep Guardiola as well as a rumored move to Serie A for UEFA Europa League finalist Inter Milan. A move to Ligue 1 to Paris Saint-Germain to reunite with former running mate Neymar is also among the options for the superstar goal-scorer.
While the treatment of fellow South American cogs Luis Suárez and Arturo Vidal did play a part in Messi's determination to leave Barcelona, the loss to Bayern Munich was the real knock-out punch that started lining out his exit.
Suárez and Barcelona icon Carles Puyol chimed in with vows of respect for the goal-scoring legend:
— Luis Suárez (@LuisSuarez9) August 25, 2020
Since joining the club at age 13, Lionel Messi has scored 634 goals in 731 games, a true goal machine that has won 34 titles with Barcelona (24 local and 10 international) during his 20 years with the club.
The 33-year-old will now have a bevy of choices, able to land anywhere he wants — yet only a handful of teams are able to pay him the gaudy weekly wages he made at Barcelona.