Lionel Messi: Man City, PSG, Juventus – what is the latest transfer situation?


Guillem Balague's BBC Sport column

If we are talking percentages then Manchester City are very much in the driving seat to be Lionel Messi’s next club.

And, perhaps most intriguingly of all, Juventus are now looking at the hugely unlikely scenario of organising some very daring financial deals and sponsorships that could see Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing together for the first time.

What a mouth-watering prospect that would be. But it is also close to impossible.

At the end of a week of countless headlines and rumours, there are two things we now definitely know above anything else, namely that Messi very much wants to leave Barcelona and Barcelona would very much like him to stay.

That is the simple analysis of what promises to become an even more complicated scenario than it already is.

And the reason for that is that both sides are ABSOLUTELY convinced that the clause of 10 June – the one that enables Messi to leave for free – gives them the right to defend their position.

Messi thinks he can walk away for nothing because that date was intended to be, effectively, the end of the season, but because of coronavirus the campaign ended up finishing much later, on 23 August with the Champions League final, two days before Messi let Barcelona know of his intentions in an official way (more on that later).

Barcelona firmly believe that the time for him to declare his intentions to leave has elapsed and that he is contracted until the end of next season.

The lawyers will be licking their lips in anticipation

Lionel Messi with his hands in the air
Lionel Messi has won six Ballons d’Or as a Barcelona player

Messi would like to leave on the best terms possible. From his side nothing has changed.

Barcelona, meanwhile, have merely said that he is not for sale – unless of course someone thinks at this stage it is worth shelling out the 700m euros that is written into his buyout clause – and therefore see no point in any further meetings at this stage.

Messi is very keen not to leave the club in a bad way, not because of the board, but certainly because of the respect he has for the club and its fans.

Many people have focused on the burofax sent to the club informing them officially that he wanted to leave, claiming it was a disrespectful way of handing in his notice. It was nothing of the sort but rather no more or less than written confirmation – a form of recorded delivery – that informs in writing what Messi had told the club verbally on numerous occasions since he ceased negotiations for renewal around March.

The burofax was just a logical step along the way, with a meeting to try to arrange an exit in a friendly way being the next logical step. Messi’s strategy has been unchanged throughout. The change would be if he decided to go to war with the club.

The Argentine now has no plans to make any statements in the immediate future, certainly not while there are still so many things to discuss and everything is up in the air. At such a time that things start to move in the right direction then he will be prepared to explain his feelings, but not before.

And on Sunday the team has to do their pre-season tests and training starts on Monday.

Rumours that Manchester City would be prepared to let any of their regular starters go in exchange for Messi are way off the mark. Angelino or Eric Garcia could feature in a deal for the player but no club is going to be able to pay a transfer fee of 100m euros plus his wages, even taking into consideration that these wages will be reduced wherever he goes next.

Barcelona will not accept a swap of players. They do not want anyone from City, they do not want to sell and would only be prepared to meet with Messi in order to renew his contract and not to negotiate a way out.

Everybody is positioning on clear terms.

All that makes the resolution impossible to predict. Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu quite clearly does not want to be the president who lets Messi go.

But in coming to that conclusion, who is he thinking about?

Certainly not the club, because as things stand he plans to keep an unhappy player locked into a club where he doesn’t want to be and who can leave for free in 12 months.

Messi’s departure would allow Barcelona to let other players grow and develop next season. And what players they are! Frenkie de Jong, Miralem Pjanic, Antoine Griezmann, Ousmane Dembele, Philippe Coutinho, Gerard Pique and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to name just a few… They would need either now or in the near future to buy a strong central midfielder and a centre-back but all that is entirely doable.

To insist on the idea of not letting Messi go is an absurdity and shows a short-sightedness on the part of Bartomeu.

We wait to see what happens next, starting with whether Messi turns up for training on Monday.



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