Messi Tells Barcelona He Wants To Leave But Club Says He Missed Deadline To Opt Out Of Contract


    Lionel Messi reacts after Bayern Munich’s third goal against his Barcelona during the UEFA Champions … [+] League quarter-final on August 14, 2020. (Photo by Manu Fernandez)

    Lionel Messi wants out of Barcelona—that much is true. But whether that’s possible, given his current contract, leaves the soccer star in a messy situation. 

    Messi today sent FC Barcelona a burofax, the equivalent of a piece of certified mail that requires the recipient’s signature, stating that he wants to leave and not play out the last year of his contract, sources with the club confirmed to Forbes.

    But, when Messi signed a contract extension in 2017 that committed him to Camp Nou through the 2020-21 season — and made him the highest-earning soccer player on the pitch — a new exit clause was added. It allowed him to leave for nothing this past summer as long as he communicated that decision before June 10, 2020, a date club sources confirmed to Forbes and that is later than previously publicly reported.

    That date passed without word from Messi and so the option to leave for free expired. Barcelona says he is legally bound under contract to the club until June 30, 2021. The matter is now in the hands of Barcelona’s legal team, which was unavailable for comment. But the club’s official stance is that Messi is not for sale and any interested parties will have to pay his full $828 million release clause, a record in the sport. The sources said they were unaware of any offer from any other club for him at this time.

    The news of Messi requesting to leave comes as no surprise after a rocky season at Camp Nou that included a dust-up over the midseason appointment of a manager that ended with his dismissal last week, a smear campaign against Messi and his wife reportedly dialed up by the club itself, and the tipping point — an embarrassing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich that put an early finish to Barça’s Champions League title hopes. It was the first season in 12 years that Messi failed to win a trophy, one for which he took a 70% cut in base pay — $11 million — after the pandemic halted play for three months.

    Few clubs can afford his sky-high wages (Forbes values Barcelona at $4.02 billion), particularly now during a global pandemic as clubs return to play without fans in the stands and face a revenue shortfall. But Manchester City and a reunion with manager Pep Guardiola has come out as the clear favorites, according to ESPN. One hurdle: UEFA Financial Fair Play Regulations, which were established in 2009 to prevent clubs from spending more than they earn and getting into financial problems by doing so.

    Owned by holding company City Football Group, which is majority owned by Abu Dhabi’s royal family, Man City just recently fought back against a two-year Champions League ban after UEFA said the club violated FFP by breaking club licensing rules by misrepresenting the source of its sponsorship income. According to Forbes’ latest estimates, Manchester City made $678 million in revenue in 2019 ($72.6 million in total from playing in the Champions League when it reached the quarterfinals) and is the fifth most-valuable soccer team in the world, with an overall franchise value of nearly $2.7 billion.

    Barcelona is planning to pay Messi $92 million this upcoming season — an amount that will help make him the fourth athlete to earn more than $1 billion in career earnings, pre-tax. About a third of his salary is in the form of performance incentives, which the star forward has been consistently earning, posting 12 consecutive seasons with at least 31 goals and hitting 700 career goals in June, joining Ronaldo as the only active player at that level. After 16 years Messi’s name is on top of every conceivable club scoring record and on 34 trophies in their case, including six La Liga and two Champions League titles. He has won the Ballon d’Or a record six times.

    Speaking to the press last week, new Barca manager Ronald Koeman held out hope Messi would stay saying, “He is the best player in the world, and the best player in the world you want in your team; you don’t want him playing against you.”

    I spent the first half of my life trying to be an athlete so I could become the second woman after Mary Lou Retton to appear on the front of a Wheaties box. I failed at

    I spent the first half of my life trying to be an athlete so I could become the second woman after Mary Lou Retton to appear on the front of a Wheaties box. I failed at that, and softball, basketball, volleyball, track, ice skating and cheerleading in the process. Looking back, the only thing amazing about my persistent pursuit of sporting glory was my lack of self-awareness. I only ever made a team after my second time trying out, when I showed up the next year with my much more athletic younger sister. (True story: she played as my proxy on Forbes’ softball team one season.) After my closest attempt at sporting success came in a spelling bee (thank you ESPN for televising and giving that sport cred), I finally decided to take the advice of all those coaches who told me I had the brains and benchwarmer’s big mouth better suited for sideline competition. Now after studying business at Drexel University and journalism at NYU, I compete for bylines, primarily writing about the business of sports. As for my sporting endeavor, I decided to focus on the one where I only compete with myself: running. I can be seen crossing the finish line of my front door celebrating my first place victory a few mornings a week…then eating a bowl of Wheaties, because « that’s what big girls eat. »


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