Barcelona’s president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, has offered to resign if it means keeping Lionel Messi at the club.
Manchester City continue to monitor movement in Catalonia, optimistic they are the club best placed to sign Messi if he can find a way to exit the Camp Nou. Pep Guardiola has spoken to the Argentinian and City believe they have a chance, although they are aware it will not be an easy deal to pull off.
The day after Barcelona’s sporting director, Ramon Planes, insisted the club “do not contemplate” Messi’s departure, it emerged that Bartomeu, as first reported by TV3, has told the player’s father, Jorge, he is prepared to step down in order to convince Messi to stay. The forward would have to publicly say the problem is Bartomeu, putting the onus on him to respond in a move seemingly designed to bring Messi into the open.
Barcelona continue to insist that for him to apply the clause allowing him to walk away for free, Messi had to inform them by 10 June. Messi’s lawyers argue he could not inform them earlier than this week because the season was under way and therefore the date should be put back. It is not clear what the exact wording of the contract is.
City are keen to see Messi exit on a free, while Barcelona continue to insist that anyone would have to pay his €700m buyout clause. There are mechanisms that can be applied, including City requesting an International Transfer Certificate from Fifa, but that is not without risks. A legal battle could ensue which is not really beneficial for either side, making a negotiated settlement more likely.
Messi’s contract expires next summer and there is a belief in Manchester that he would contemplate going a year without playing if needs be. The City Group see him as not just a player but a global ambassador with a huge impact across all their clubs. With the market open for another five weeks, there is a long way to go.
The chances of Messi making a U-turn in response to Bartomeu’s offer appear unlikely, not least because he has previously complained about accusations he is too powerful, effectively king-maker at the Camp Nou. If he were to do something that effectively removed the president, it would do little to alter those accusations. He distrusts Bartomeu and a resignation would do little to resolve his doubts about Barcelona’s ability to build a team capable of winning the Champions League.
If Bartomeu were to go, it would also not yet mean a regime change. He would resign but not call elections, leaving the board in place until presidential elections scheduled for next March. Jordi Cardoner, the vice-president, would be the most likely candidate to take over as interim president.
Victor Font, the leading opposition figure and favourite to win the election, has said that when he spoke to Messi’s camp he was told the decision was made. Although Font demanded Bartomeu resign immediately, he conceded the president’s departure would no longer serve to change Messi’s mind.
So far there has been silence from Messi, who on Sunday is due at Barcelona’s training ground for tests before pre-season training on Monday.
Meanwhile, Luis Suárez has hit out at comments made about his case that he considers to be untrue. The Uruguayan, who has been told by Ronald Koeman that he is not part of the club’s plans and whose lawyers are negotiating to rescind his contract, posted a message on social media.
Alongside a hashtag that translates as #NotEverythingIsTrue, Suárez wrote: “There are people speaking in my name or saying things about me when it’s years since I had a relationship with them. I speak when I have to speak and I speak for myself.”