Any doubts Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu might have had over the veracity of Lionel Messi’s threats to leave the club this summer surely vanished the moment the Argentine’s fax, sent on Tuesday night, arrived at Camp Nou. Messi has, of course, raised the possibility that he might depart Barca before, but this time his ultimatum feels heavier. More sincere. This time, Messi isn’t bluffing.
- Lionel Messi 'informs Barcelona he wants to terminate contract'
- Lionel Messi’s unique gifts were wasted by Barcelona, why wouldn’t he want to leave?
- 'He's Mr Barcelona' - but Lionel Messi would be 'welcome' at PSG, says Thomas Tuchel
‘We expected it’ – Laporta asks for patience after Barca’s 3-0 loss to Bayern
The 33-year-old reportedly wants to activate a clause in his contract which, at the end of each season, allows him to walk away from Barcelona as a free agent. Such a decision would surely prompt a legal challenge from the Catalan club who, through reports in the press, have already expressed their belief that Messi would be unable to do this due to the clause only applying in June. Barca, it seems, would demand the full €700 million release fee be paid for the player. It would be the most dramatic footballing courtroom battle since the Bosman ruling.
There are still those who, with some justification, doubt the 33-year-old will follow through with all this. Messi is, according to Football Leaks, the highest paid player in the game, and by some distance, picking up a wage of €2 million-a-week before tax. This limits the number of potential suitors who could even consider making a move to only a handful of clubs, particularly at a time of great economic hardship across society.
Messi and his advisors are almost certainly aware of this, but this shouldn’t dull the significance of the course the Argentine has taken. It might well be the case that this act of open rebellion represents one final attempt to force change at Camp Nou. Just last week, Bartomeu revealed his intentions to bring forward the long-awaited club election to next March. Many fans and club figures believe they should take place now. Messi, it’s reasonable to assume, is among them and this might be the only route to make that happen. He is the only one powerful enough to change Barcelona’s political landscape.
Seven stars at risk as Ronald Koeman plots huge Barcelona clear out - Euro Papers
Even still, this is the darkest day in the darkest period of Barcelona’s recent history. That the greatest player in the club’s history, and the most significant figure in Barca folklore since Johan Cruyff, should feel forced into taking such action is a damning indictment of the state the Camp Nou outfit finds itself in right now.
Barca have teetered on the brink of a full-blown revolt for the majority of 2020, but this is now in meltdown. “Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend,” former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol tweeted not long after news of Messi’s transfer request broke. Puyol, of course, resigned in protest at Bartomeu’s decision to sack sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta back in 2015.
Luis Suarez, who has reportedly been told that he no longer has a place at Camp Nou, replied to Puyol’s tweet with two clapping hands emojis, revealing more into the mood of the Barcelona dressing room than it ever seemed likely two emojis would. If Messi wants to make it a choice between himself or Bartomeu, there isn’t many he can’t count on the support of.
With the start of the new La Liga season less than three weeks away, it seems unlikely that Barcelona will kick off the new campaign in anything other than complete chaos. Only Messi truly knows whether he plans on still being at the club by then. Either way, with Messi still at Camp Nou or not, this week’s developments paint the clearest picture yet of all that is wrong with Barca.
Barcelona aren’t even good underdogs – The Warm-Up
Lewandowski at the double as Bayern hammer Barca at Camp Nou