Lionel Messi: Barcelona future ‘difficult’, admits player’s father and agent

Sport

Jorge Messi arrives in Barcelona and has talks with club
Manchester City wait for outcome before deciding next move

Manchester City will wait for negotiations between Jorge Messi and Barcelona to end before deciding on their next move in pursuit of the Ballon d’Or holder, with the player’s father and agent insisting it is difficult for his son to continue in Catalonia.

Messi Sr also claimed there was no deal with City, that he had not spoken to Pep Guardiola and said he did not know whether his son would be able to leave.

Nine days after Messi served notice of his intention to leave the club, and two days after he failed to turn up for pre-season training, Barcelona continue to insist he is not for sale unless his €700m (£622m) buyout clause is triggered.

Messi missed the 10 June deadline that enabled him to walk for free but his lawyers argue that date should be put back because the 2019-20 season ended late. Barcelona have intimated they would take the case to court if he breaks his contract.

The player’s father flew from Argentina to Spain on Wednesday and met the club in the afternoon. Before the meeting Barcelona briefed they would only negotiate a new contract, not Messi’s departure.

Upon his arrival at Barcelona airport, Messi Sr said he didn’t know anything. A camera from the TV station Cuatro later filmed a brief conversation in which, while he sought to reveal as little as possible, he said it was hard to see Messi continuing at Barcelona.

When asked “Is Messi going to leave Barcelona or what?” Jorge Messi replied: “I don’t know, I don’t know anything,” before responding “difficult” when asked what he thought of the possibility of Messi staying. That was reiterated when he was asked: “How do you see his future at Barcelona?” As he walked away, Messi replied: “Difficult … difficult.”

Jorge Messi was also asked directly about City and whether that was a “good option” for his son, prompting the following exchange:

“I don’t know. There’s nothing yet.”

“Did you [plural] talk to Pep and he said that maybe it was better to stay at Barcelona?”

“I didn’t talk to Pep.”

“You didn’t talk to Pep?”

“No. [I didn’t talk] to anyone.”

Talks with Barcelona are due to break the deadlock and end a situation that suits no one. Messi could walk away, leaving any suitors to request Fifa issue an International Transfer Certificate pending a resolution through the courts or Fifa arbitration. Fifa would grant the ITC but the subsequent litigation would expose Messi and his next club to the possibility of being forced to pay the buyout clause and there could be sanctions imposed.

Messi’s camp have claimed the clause does not apply in his final season, prompting the league to issue a communique on the club’s behalf insisting he remains under contract and the clause is valid. Even though it is unlikely the full buyout amount would be applied through arbitration, the payment imposed could be high and a legal battle is in no one’s interests. That, though, is virtually the only common ground between the three parties.