Top European clubs including Man City, PSG circle as Lionel Messi calls time at Barcelona

Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave in a “bombshell” fax. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 26 August 2020

Top European clubs including Man City, PSG circle as Lionel Messi calls time at Barcelona

  • Speculation swirled about Messi’s departure after this month’s humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich
  • Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan are among the clubs to have been linked to Argentine

BARCELONA: Six-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has told Barcelona he wants to leave in a “bombshell” fax that is expected to spark a legal battle over a buy-out clause worth hundreds of millions of dollars and a fight from top European clubs eager to sign up the Argentinian.
Signalling the end of an era at Barcelona, where Messi is the record scorer and has won four Champions League titles, the disgruntled Argentine wants to terminate his contract “unilaterally” by triggering a release clause, a source told AFP.
Relations have plummeted this year and speculation swirled about Messi’s departure after this month’s humiliating 8-2 Champions League quarter-final defeat to Bayern Munich, which left Barca without a trophy for the first time since 2007.
The 33-year-old’s demand, faxed by his lawyers, prompted protests against Barcelona’s under-fire president Josep Maria Bartomeu outside the Camp Nou where Messi, synonymous with the club’s most successful period, is worshipped by fans.
“And the bomb explodes: ‘I want to leave Barca’,” headlined Spain’s best-selling Marca newspaper on Wednesday.
“The Messi bomb: He wants to leave,” read Catalan sports daily Mundo Deportivo, while Sport newspaper headlined “All-out war!“
Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and Inter Milan are among the clubs to have been linked to Messi, who is among the greatest players in history and has wages to match, with a reported weekly salary of nearly one million euros.
ESPN reported that Messi spoke last week with Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola about a possible move. A Barcelona-based Brazilian journalist also said Messi wants to play under his former Barcelona coach.
Barcelona have yet to react officially but are understood to believe Messi’s release clause expired in June, and that he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season.
“In principle, this clause expired on June 10, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Marca.
“It’s the first step toward opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to 700 million euros ($828 million).”
Messi joined Barcelona’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut in 2004 as a 17-year-old, before going on to score a club-record 634 goals.
But his future at Barca was thrown into serious doubt by the 8-2 loss to Bayern, the first time Barca had conceded eight goals in a game since losing to Sevilla 8-0 in the 1946 Spanish Cup.
The defeat has sparked drastic changes. Coach Quique Setien was sacked after barely six months in charge, and sporting director Eric Abidal was also dismissed.
According to Spanish media, Messi met with new coach Ronald Koeman last week and told the Dutchman he saw himself “more out than in” at the club.
Koeman has vowed to “fight to put Barca back on top” and said at his unveiling he was hopeful Messi would remain at the club for several more years.
But Koeman has reportedly told Luis Suarez he is no longer part of Barca’s plans, delivering a similar message to Arturo Vidal, Ivan Rakitic and Samuel Umtiti.
“The club needs changes,” said defender Gerard Pique following the Bayern demolition. “Nobody is untouchable, least of all me. Fresh blood is needed to change this. We’ve hit rock bottom.”
Argentine sports daily Ole described Messi’s wish to leave as a “complete bombshell,” but he has had regular disagreements with the club’s board in recent times.
The Lisbon loss, Barca’s heaviest in Europe, exposed an aging team that Messi repeatedly had said was simply not good enough.
He said it in February and again in July, when a rant in the aftermath of handing Real Madrid the title turned into a brutal, but honest, assessment of their season.
As his relationship with the club hierarchy grew increasingly strained, Messi also reacted publicly when Abidal appeared to blame the players for the sacking of Ernesto Valverde in January.
He also led the fightback from the Barcelona players over a dispute with the board in March regarding pay cuts during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Respect and admiration, Leo. All my support, friend,” tweeted Barca great Carles Puyol, a long-time former team-mate of Messi, to which Suarez replied with two applause emojis.
Vidal also tweeted: “When you shut a tiger in a cage he doesn’t give in, he fights back.”


Transfers are out of my hands, says Liverpool manager Klopp

Updated 23 January 2021

Transfers are out of my hands, says Liverpool manager Klopp

  • Liverpool suffers alarming loss of form going five league games without a win

LIVERPOOL, UK: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said whether any new players come in the January transfer window will not be up to him as he does not hold the purse strings.

The German may be keen for fresh blood as the champions have suffered an alarming loss of form going five league games without a win.

Thursday’s 1-0 loss to Burnley ended a 68-game unbeaten home run and left them six points adrift of leaders Manchester United — who they play in an FA Cup fourth round tie on Sunday.

Injury has deprived Klopp of key central defender Virgil van Dijk but it is up front where their previously irresistible forward have failed to fire.

It is seven hours and 18 minutes since they last found the net in the league.

“Of course somebody else is making the decisions,” he said laughing at his press conference on Friday.

“It was always like this.

“We discuss the situation pretty much on a daily basis, could we improve something or not and we make recommendations but I cannot spend the money.

“I never did.”

Klopp said he would be taking Sunday’s game at Old Trafford seriously against a side they drew 0-0 in the league at Anfield last Sunday.

Klopp left the likes of Mo Salah and Robert Firmino on the bench against Burnley although both came on eventually.

“It is a different competition and yes we want to go through and for that we have to play really well,” he said.

“United are in a good moment and have got the results so far but we are ready 100 percent.”

Klopp had said in the immediate aftermath of the Burnley match that seeing the unbeaten home run end was “a massive punch in the face.”

However, on Friday the 53-year-old said it was about looking forwwards.

“Sixty-eight matches unbeaten is an incredible number,” he said.

“I never spoke about the number (referring to the home unbeaten run) but now it is onto a new series.”

Klopp said the players should not take the blame for what did not go right against Burnley.

“We go again, no doubt about that,” he said.

“I said what I thought after the game.

“When things don’t work out as we want them to then there’s an issue.

“The issue is that I didn’t tell the boys things clearly enough.

“I have to change the way I tell the boys (these things).”