Messi heading for exit after failing to report for pre-season tests

Sergi Escudero

Barcelona, Spain, Aug 30 (efe-epa).- Lionel Messi, who last week informed Barcelona of his intention to exercise a clause in his contract that allows him to leave the club, did not attend pre-season medical tests on Sunday.

The first team is due back to attend the first training session of the new season on Monday.

Messi’s absence from Sunday’s tests is the latest turn in a saga which looks increasingly likely to culminate in the Argentine superstar’s departure from the club he has represented since the age of 12.

Lawyers for the Barcelona captain sent a burofax on Tuesday evening to the club’s leadership informing them of Messi’s intention to exercise a get-out clause that was inserted into his contract when he signed an extension in 2017.

The contract also includes a 700 million-euro buyout clause for any potential suitors.

Barcelona believe that the deadline for that clause to be exercised passed on June 10, in line with the scheduled end of the regular season.

However, Messi’s lawyers are arguing that this has not been a regular season. The end of the 2019/2020 campaign was delayed until August due to the coronavirus hiatus which saw most major European leagues suspended in the spring.

In this context, the Argentine believes the clause in his contract that would allow him to leave on a free transfer remains valid.

But Barcelona intend on falling back on that buyout clause, and now that the player has skipped mandatory pre-season medical checks, could be entitled to sanctioning Messi.

“It would have contradicted the burofax had Messi showed up for the medical tests, since his advisors believe his contract to be null and void. In this case, he does not have to attend training or earn his salary,” says Marcos Mas, a lawyer and member of Barcelona’s legal and disciplinary commissions from 2010 to 2015.

“The spirit of the contract could be what plays in Messi’s favor, while the club is sticking to whatever was signed must be upheld,” says Juan de Dios Crespo, who specialises in sports law.

“It is a fact that this season was not typical.”

“If the date of departure has been tied to a specific date, and that appears to be the case, it is clear that after said date, the right to leave for free is expired,” says Mas. “The exceptional nature of the clause forces a restricted and literal interpretation of it”.

Mas does not believe that the delayed end to the season implies any alterations or modifications to the contract.

“For that, both parties would have needed to modify the clause, and they didn’t do that,” Mas says.

For now, Messi’s future remains up in the air, but his absence from pre-season checks and Monday’s return to training are the latest development in what increasingly looks like his inevitable departure from the Camp Nou. EFE


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