Barcelona may allow its star forward Lionel Messi to leave the Camp Nou for as little as €100 million ($118m) in the current transfer window, The Telegraph reports, citing sources familiar with the situation.
Messi, who has been with the club for 20 years, last week told bosses that he wants to quit following a humiliating 2-8 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinal.
He has invoked a provision in his contract that would allow him to leave without a transfer fee at the end of every season. But Barcelona holds firm to its view that the deadline for triggering that clause expired in June.
Messi’s lawyers argue that the date should be moved up to 23 August, three days after he sent his notice of intent and the day of the Champions League final, because the season was extended to accommodate the coronavirus pandemic.
Sources who have seen Messi’s contract told The Telegraph that the clause is “unclear and open to interpretation”. Although Barcelona does not want to let Leo go away for free and is seeking legal advice, both sides are understood to be seeking a compromise.
Messi’s contract also includes a €700 million ($826m) release clause. Insiders believe that Manchester City, led by Messi’s former coach Pep Guardiola, would be clear favourites to sign the 33-year-old Argentine.
The Daily Record, a UK tabloid, broke the news on Wednesday that Man City’s owners City Football Group had agreed to buy out Messi on a five-year deal. While the news is yet to be confirmed, if it holds true then Messi would become the most expensive football player in history, beating his former teammate Neymar’s move to Paris Saint-Germain for €222 million in 2017. Previous reports suggested that Man City is ready to pay €500 million to secure Messi's services.
Given that Messi’s contract expires in July 2021, he will be able to start talks with other clubs in just four months and even sign a pre-contract agreement ahead of a free transfer next summer, according to The Telegraph.
Messi’s father and agent, Jorge, had face-to-face talks with Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu on Wednesday. The two failed to reach an agreement over Leo’s future, with Messi Sr reportedly saying, “My son isn’t staying in Barcelona.”