Juventus’ 3-0 away victory over Barcelona at the Nou Camp this morning may have seen the curtain close on what has been an absolutely epic duel between two of the greatest to ever kick a ball – Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
It has been a tough season for Barcelona fans after missing out on the Copa del Rey and losing the league title to their fierce rival Madrid.
And it’s been an even tougher couple of weeks for them as they were humiliated in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in Portugal and a few days ago their captain and best player Lionel Messi sent a fax message to the board to terminate his contract, referring to a clause that allows him to leave at the end of the season.
The Barcelona board replied the message saying “the deadline of the clause had expired on the 10th of June.” Messi will argue that the season ended on the 23rd of August due to the coronavirus pandemic. If both parties are unable to come to an agreement, the case might have to be settled in a Spanish court which will be a very brutal way for the club’s highest goal scorer to depart after 20 years at the club.
What many people want to know is whether can Messi leave for free. In my personal opinion, the answer is no. It is common knowledge that Messi has a clause which allows him to leave at the end of each season but also has a clause which prevents him from leaving until a lump sum of 700 million euros is paid to Barcelona.
Both parties have valid arguments to present before the court if the matter has to be settled that way. Clauses like this aren’t rare. When contracts are drafted, the clubs usually use the date as their reference, they do not take into account when the season ends.
There were the special cases of Edinson Cavani and Thomas Meunier, who didn’t participate in the Champions League knockout rounds in Lisbon because their contracts expired on June 30 and they had refused to extend their contract for the additional two months.
I personally haven’t seen the contract but former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart said, “Messi can’t leave. He’ll leave in 2021. I have seen the contract and it is very clear. The clause ended in June and there’s no going back.”
We have to view the contract as a whole, a date is a date unless that date is linked to other provisions, so unless Messi finds an agreement to terminate his contract with Barcelona, he will remain there until his contract expires in 2021. This, however, is just an opinion and can be interpreted differently by a judge with a different view.
With the transfer window set to close on October 5th, what happens if the case reaches the courts? If Barcelona decides not to negotiate a fee for the Argentine, the case might have to be settled in the courts. Recent reports suggest that Manchester City are in pole position to sign Messi.
If Messi were to agree to a deal with Manchester City without the approval of Barcelona, Messi risks getting suspended by the FIFA if the courts side with Barcelona. If the court rules in the favour of Barcelona, Manchester City would be forced to pay the 700 million euros release clause and that’s a risk the English club isn’t ready to take due to the FFP rule.
Right now the best course of action will be for all parties involved to look for an agreement and avoid going to court, as that will be a sad ending to what has been a perfect relationship.