Lionel Messi has asked his representatives to set up a meeting with the Barcelona board so as to ‘avoid a war’ over his future – but the Catalan club showed no signs of accepting the olive branch on Friday night.
It would have been the first time the two sides had come together since Messi’s bombshell burofax was sent to the club on Tuesday telling them that he wanted to leave on a free transfer.
If Messi’s people are denied a meeting there is the possibility of the superstar not turning up to the training ground for the first day of pre-season on Sunday as he tries to force a move to the Etihad.
It looks increasingly as if only a process of negotiation between Messi and Barcelona will resolve the stalemate. But the club insist the player’s contract does not make him a free agent because the deadline passed in June for him to tell the club he wanted to leave.
The spirit of the law might give Messi room to argue that the season was only extended because of the pandemic, therefore extending his window of opportunity to terminate his contract, but the ‘spirit of the law’ would not win in court.
Messi believes after 20 years of service he deserves to leave Barcelona on his terms as he would have been allowed to do had he exercised that right at the start of June. Yet the 33-year-old Argentine, who is determined to leave the Nou Camp, wants his people ‘to try to avoid a war’ with the club.
Despite his disillusionment with Barcelona’s sporting strategy, Messi has a deep affection for the club and the city. Fans, irate at their talisman’s decision, stormed the ground this week and, amid ugly scenes, called for the board to resign. Political leaders have also been having their say on if he can be persuaded to stay.
However, Sportsmail understands Messi’s heart is set on a new challenge and wants his agents to instigate discussions over the best way to leave. He feels so strongly that he would still expect a negotiated compromise over any fee if he cannot leave on a free transfer.
City, meanwhile, are unwilling to include regular first-team players as makeweights in any deal. Gabriel Jesus, Bernardo Silva and Riyad Mahrez have all been mooted as possibly forming part of negotiations with the Catalans. Sportsmail has been told that City want the trio to remain in Pep Guardiola’s squad.
Silva is of particular interest to Barcelona, who made noises about the possibility of signing the Portugal playmaker earlier in the summer.
The Catalan giants are also interested in City left back Angelino, who is valued at around £25million after spending a profitable loan spell at RB Leipzig, reaching the Champions League semi-finals. Angelino has started just four Premier League games for City across two spells.
Teenage defender Eric Garcia also remains on Barcelona’s radar after his refusal to sign a new contract at the Etihad Stadium.
The process of landing Messi was set in motion in a personal phone call from the Argentine to Guardiola but there are significant complications. The transfer window is open for only five more weeks, closing on October 5.
City’s chief rivals, Liverpool, ruled out any move for Messi, with boss Jurgen Klopp saying on Friday: ‘Who doesn’t want Messi in their team? The numbers are not for us, but a good player, to be honest. He’s never played in another league. Football is different here. I’d like to see it but I’m not sure I will.’