SUNDAY, AUGUST 30 presents an opportunity to see what Lionel Messi’s state of mind is amid his highly-revved transfer saga at Spanish giants Barcelona. This as the club prepares ahead of the start of the new season.
The squad are set to gather at Ciutat Esportiva Joan Gamper, the club’s training ground and academy base, on Sunday with uncertainty hanging over Messi’s possible participation in the proceedings. Barca’s greatest ever player, like with the rest of the first team players, is due at the complex for coronavirus tests, which must be taken and passed if he is to join Ronald Koeman’s first pre-season session on Monday.
But then again, this is should the Argentine want to. The 33-year-old has reportedly put in a request to exit the Catalans, controversially demonstrating this through a ‘leaked’ burofax sent to the club last week before surfacing online a few hours later. In it, La Liga’s record goalscorer stated his intention to leave on a free transfer.
The next day, with Barca’s scheduled training session taking place on Monday, the newly-appointed sporting director Ramon Planes said it is expected Messi would be present on Sunday for testing. But while Messi was initially inclined to comply and avoid escalating tensions further, his lawyers have since advised him to stay away, Catalunya Ràdio were reporting on Saturday.
Messi’s legal team are of the opinion that the Argentine superstar’s participation in the team’s pre-season programme ahead of the start to the new campaign on September 12 could damage his legal case if his departure ends up being settled in court.
Barcelona insist a clause included in Messi’s contract that allowed him to go for free this summer had to be activated by June 10 and is, therefore, no longer valid. The club, however, argued the only way Messi will be allowed to depart is through his release clause – set at €700 million (R13.8 billion) – which any prospective club would have to pay to acquire his services and, in the process, see its profile increase above and beyond.
Manchester City are said to be in pole position to lure the Blaugrana sniper to England, with other clubs including rivals Manchester United, and Inter Milan over in Italy. Now with the attention over at Barca’s training ground, it will be observed that if Messi is a no-show for tests on Sunday, and by extension training on Monday, it will suggest there is no going back.