What at first seemed unimaginable now seems inevitable: Lionel Messi will be leaving Barcelona.
According to multiple reports Tuesday, one of the world’s best-ever players has informed the Spanish titan that he wants to transfer away from the Nou Camp immediately, a year before his contract ends. Messi moved from his native Argentina at age 13 to join Barcelona’s youth ranks
Barcelona later confirmed the news, according to the Associated Press:
Breaking: Barcelona confirms that Lionel Messi has told the club he wants to leave— Rob Harris (@RobHarris) August 25, 2020
Messi has led Barcelona to 10 La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns since breaking into the first team in 2004. He has also helped Barca win five Spanish Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups. Individually, he has collected a record six Ballon d’Or trophies as the world’s best player.
Messi has been unhappy with Barcelona’s leadership for some time, and blasted the club’s brass after Barca blew its lead atop the La Liga table and were ultimately overtaken by rival Real Madrid after the Spanish league resumed in June following a three-month, coronavirus-induced break.
The last straw appeared to be Barcelona’s shocking 8-2 drubbing by Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the Champions League on Aug. 14. Bayern went on to beat Paris Saint-Germain for the European title.
The news will set off a global biding war for Messi, whose contract contains a $828 million release clause, with deep-pocketed PSG and Manchester City the obvious frontrunners. (City is managed by former Barca boss Pep Guardiola.)
Other clubs, including the David Beckham-owned MLS expansion side Inter Miami, could also be in the mix, although most will be hard-pressed to afford Messi’s exorbitant transfer fee and salary, which is believed to be around $34 million annually.
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