FC Barcelona’s former coach and current manager of English Premier League club Manchester City has reportedly weighed in on the “saga” surrounding Argentine star Lionel Messi’s recently announced desire to leave the Catalan club, reported Mundo Deportivo.
According to the outlet, citing Catalunya Radio, Guardiola, who has since returned to Manchester after spending a few days in Barcelona, spoke on the phone with Messi.
The conversation was suggested as having taken place before the burofax sent by the forward to FC Barcelona stating his desire to end his 20-year relationship with the club.
Messi is claimed to have communicated his intentions to Guardiola, anxious to learn his opinion on the footballer’s prospective move to Manchester City.
According to the report, Josep "Pep" Guardiola told Messi that given the economic difficulty of a potential transfer, his best option was to remain with Barcelona and end his illustrious career at the Camp Nou. This ties in with statements previously made by one of the world’s most successful football managers.
A Matter of Price
Amid speculations that were triggered by Lionel Messi’s decision to part ways with Barcelona, an earlier report claimed that Manchester City could not afford to sign the football sensation on anything but a free transfer.
Man City had been touted as the most likely favourite in the race to snap up Messi, who had long been rumored as mulling leaving the Catalan club due to internal strife and, more recently, Barca’s crushing 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals.
Manchester City was ready to offer the football icon a five-year €500 million contract, Sport.es reported on 30 August.
However, unless Messi’s free transfer becomes possible, the Mancunians haven’t the funds to pay Barcelona and then afford the celebrated athlete’s salary, writes Forbes.
The Release Clause Conundrum
The 33-year-old winner of a record six Ballon d'Or awards has been with the Barcelona team since his youth, joining the ranks of Barca’s division of under-14 players in the early 2000s.
Messi’s contract, signed in 2017 and due to expire next June, allows him to unilaterally leave the club at the end of each season.
The £623million (€700mln; $839mln) release clause in his contract that allowed him to leave for nothing lapsed at the end of May, writes TalkSPORT, with Messi and his representatives arguing that it should have been extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.
His legal team is said to believe the player has already terminated his contract after failing to show up for pre-season training on Sunday and Monday.
La Liga said in a statement on Sunday that the clause remains valid and Messi cannot be released until the buy-out is paid.
ESPN reports that the Catalan club is still offering Messi the chance to extend his contract until 2023, with the club’s president Josep Maria Baromeu reportedly intent on meeting with Messi’s father and agent, Jorge Messi, to discuss a deal.