“Messi wants to be free” was how Marca headlined their main story on Wednesday as the impact of Lionel Messi’s transfer request reverberated through Spain.
One columnist for Spain’s biggest-selling sports daily added: “Messi going is worse than the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich”.
The story that the 33-year-old wants to leave Barcelona also made it on to the front page of many of the mainstream papers. El Pais reported: “Messi asks to leave Barcelona.”
Diario AS went with a simple “Adios” while the two main Barcelona-supporter papers were in a state of shock.
El Mundo Deportivo, closest to the current board, reported that: “The club wants him to stay." It also made it clear that in any upcoming legal wrangle Barcelona believe they are in the right because Messi did not exercise his right to opt out of his contract in June.
The last contract that Messi signed (in 2017) allowed him to leave on a free at the end of every season providing he provided notice of his intention to do so in the first 10 days of June.
When there was no news from Messi during the window this year the club took it as read that the deadline had passed and he was now tied to another year - with a 700 million euros release clause (827 million dollars).
But Messi has a different interpretation. He believes his contract allows him to leave on a free at the end of every season, and that because the past season did not end until August due to the coronavirus pandemic, he can go for nothing providing he informs the club in time – which he did do by sending the burofax (recorded mail) on Tuesday.
Best friend Luis Suarez is out
El Mundo Deportivo also made plenty of the fact that Messi’s burofax arrived one day after his best friend at the club Luis Suarez was told that he was not needed for the coming season. “The relationship with Suarez is key,” it said.
“Total war” was Diario Sport’s front page. They declared the club: “broken by the dispute between the president Josep Bartomeu and Messi”.
Sport also reported that Bartomeu’s rivals for the presidency Victor Font and Joan Laporta are both considering a vote of no-confidence that could force the president out.
They would need to gather signatures from 15% of the membership and that currently means 16,570 names on a petition that would have to be collected within a 14-day period.
Pep Guardiola (L), then Barcelona coach and Messi training in 2011. Photo: Nick Potts/dpa.
The club would then be forced to hold a referendum and a two-thirds majority would force elections. But such processes are difficult and with Catalonia still in the grip of the pandemic they would be even more problematic.
Messi’s dispute with the club over whether he is or is not a free agent could go to court or the the two parties could reach an agreement in which the player buys out his contract.
Manchester City, coach by Messi's former boss at Barcelona Pep Guardiola, look the best placed club to sign Messi if he does finally leave.
What all Spanish media agreed in their Wednesday editions is that this is an ugly way for such a beautiful Barcelona career to end.