Former Barcelona president Joan Gaspart claims Lionel Messi “cannot leave” Barcelona this summer amid links to Premier League sides Man Utd and Man City.
Messi has informed the Spanish giants that he wants to depart and the PA news agency understands the 33-year-old sent a fax to the club on Tuesday asking to have his contract terminated.
Reports claim the six-time Ballon d’Or winner has a clause in his contract which, if activated, would allow him to walk away from Barcelona for free and this is likely to spark a scramble for the playmaker’s signature.
City are likely to be linked with a move for Messi, with a move to the Etihad bringing a reunion with former boss Pep Guardiola.
While coaching Messi at Barcelona, Guardiola won three La Liga titles and two Champions League trophies during a four-year spell in charge from 2008.
Guardiola mainly needs to strengthen his defence after seeing City lose their Premier League title to Liverpool, trailing the new champions by a huge 18 points, but a move for Messi may prove too hard to resist.
Neighbours Manchester United could also be interested, having already indicated this summer that they are willing to spend big through their pursuit of Jadon Sancho.
Both City and Man Utd have been linked in today’s newspapers but Gaspart claims they might have to wait to sign the Argentina international.
Gaspart, who was Barcelona president for three years in the early 2000s, told Marca: “[Messi] cannot leave. He will have to leave in 2021.
“I have seen the contract and it is very clear. The clause ended in June and there is no going back.
“I prefer him to leave next year for zero than to go now for less than €700 million.
“The club is in charge here, not the player. The club paid the players. And this is not a matter of money, there is a signed contract and that’s it.”
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