PETE JENSON: Lionel Messi’s father is expected to meet Barcelona’s president TOMORROW to demand his Nou Camp exit… So which side will back down in a historic week for this famous club?
- Jorge Messi is to meet with Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu on Wednesday
- Neither the player, nor the club have backed down in a bitter row over his future
- It could prove to be one of the most important meetings in the club’s history
- Bartomeu wants Messi to stay but the player wants out, notifying the club by fax
Jorge Messi’s meeting with Josep Bartomeu looks set to be one of the most important in Barcelona‘s history.
Do they get to keep club legend Lionel Messi for maybe three more years, enjoying all the landmark matches that would come in his final seasons? Or do they lose him in an undignified jumble of missed training sessions, leaked conversations, disputed contract clauses, and with the 8-2 defeat to Bayern his last ever game? And is there even an ugly court case thrown in at the end for good measure?
Before Barcelona president Bartomeu meets with Jorge Messi this week he will need to find unity in the boardroom.
Jorge Messi (back) is set for an historic meeting with Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu
Bartomeu is determined to use the meeting to convince Messi’s camp to agree a new contract
Messi is disillusioned with life at the club and communicated via fax that he intends to leave
There are directors who believe the club’s financial situation makes trying to get the best price for Messi, as well as getting his €100m (£89m) salary off the wage bill, the only sane way forward.
Others think the club should dig in until the bitter end even if that means a legal fight to the finish over the contractual small-print.
Messi’s father Jorge is due into Barcelona this week and the face-to-face meeting has been penciled in for Wednesday, although neither side has yet confirmed it will take place tomorrow.
Bartomeu has briefed that when the meeting does happen he will use it only to urge the Messi camp to sign a contract extension extending his time at the club for two more years.
As things stand Messi will insist he has already rescinded his contract by burofax, and make it clear he would rather contest Barcelona’s refusal to let him leave in court, all the time while not playing football, than he would put pen to paper and shake on a new deal with Bartomeu.
The Barcelona president has a better relationship with Messi senior than he does with Messi junior but it would take a charm offensive of Ballon d’Or proportions to get Jorge to even consider taking a new-deal offer back to his son.
Xavi Hernandez (left) and Carles Puyol (right) were both allowed to depart and Messi believes he has earned the right to be given the same opportunity with a year remaining on his deal
Bartomeu needs to gain agreement from the board with a split now regarding an exit for Messi
Jorge Messi goes into the meeting with a polar opposite proposal to Barcelona’s. He will insist the club allow Messi to leave in the same manner they allowed other club legends Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Carles Puyol to depart.
Bartomeu believes Messi departing for a direct Champions League rival makes this case wholly different from the other three.
In reply, Jorge Messi will be able to point to a television interview Bartomeu gave in 2019 when he said: ‘Messi has a contract that we signed two years ago for four years.
‘In the last year of the contract, before the 2020-21 season starts, he can leave the club. He can quit football or go to another team.’
Manchester City will be the elephant in the room in this week’s meeting. It’s clear interest from Pep Guardiola to take Messi to the Premier League makes the threat of Messi leaving all the more real.
But City cannot take Messi at any price. They want his situation with Barcelona clarified first. It’s not a case of Jorge Messi marching in with an offer from Sheikh Mansour.
Jorge Messi (middle, with his wife Celia Maria – left – and daughter Maria Sol – right – at his son’s wedding in 2017) is determined to go to the meeting with the club to secure the player’s exit
Barcelona supporters will hold their breath until the meeting concludes. Some cling to the hope for an emotional U-turn based on the fact that Messi has had a passionate, spectacular, change of heart several times before with the Argentina team.
But sources close to the player continue to say this is different and Messi’s no-show for the first two training sessions of pre-season indicate that there is no going back. He has shown so far that he would rather not play football, than play another game for Bartomeu’s Barça.
The ace up Bartomeu’s sleeve may well be his own admission that if Messi’s problem is in large part with him, he can remind the Messi clan that by March he will no longer be president. Come next summer there will be a new president in charge.
But Messi has indicated that it has gone beyond that and Jorge Messi’s ace could be his son’s determination to take this through the courts even if it means he sacrifices at least the first half of this season.
The only certainty is that any bluffing now has to stop – it’s time to put the cards on table.
Messi has his eyes on a reunion with former boss Pep Guardiola, now at Manchester City