Lionel Messi has taken another step away from Barcelona by not showing up for training on Monday with the Argentina international of the belief that his contract with the club is over, Goal can confirm.
Messi stunned the footballing world when he presented the club’s board with a transfer request following the conclusion of what was a disappointing 2019-20 campaign for the Catalan side, insistent that he had a clause in his deal that would allow him to leave the club on a free transfer.
La Liga has quashed those hopes by siding with Barca - who claim that clause expired in June - on the issue, meaning that if he is to leave, any club will have to meet his buyout clause of €700 million (£627m/$835m) or negotiate a cheaper deal with the Liga giants.
Messi, though, continues to stand firm and has distanced himself further from the Camp Nou outfit.
He failed to show up for coronavirus screening on Sunday and will not join his team-mates for training as he no longer considers himself part of Ronald Koeman’s squad.
The 33-year-old has been closely linked with a move to Manchester City after almost two decades with the Spanish giants, while Paris Saint-Germain and Inter are the other teams credited with a serious interest in his services.
Messi, whose contract expires in 2021, wishes to meet with the club board to resolve the deteriorating situation, but it is reported that dialogue will only take place if the player wishes to sign a new deal.
Regarded by many as the greatest player ever, the attacker has been on Barcelona’s books since 2001 and made his debut with the first team as a 16-year-old in 2004.
He has written himself into club legend by scoring a record 634 goals for the Catalans in 731 outings, including 31 in 44 last term, in which Barca finished second in La Liga to Real Madrid, having led the league prior to the coronavirus lockdown, and suffering a humiliating 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
During his time with the club, Messi has won the Primera Division title on 10 occasions and has helped Barca to four Champions League titles. Additionally, he has scooped the Ballon d’Or, recognised as football’s greatest individual honour, on six occasions, one more than great rival Cristiano Ronaldo.