According to a report from Spanish news outlet Marca, Lionel Messi told FC Barcelona back in July that he would not renew his current contract, which runs until 2018.
The report from Marca claims that Messi made the decision not to renew his contract while on holiday with wife Antonella after what has been a tumultuous period in the Argentine superstar’s career. After speaking with his father, Messi allegedly spoke with Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu and told him that he would wait until the end of his contract in 2018 to make a decision on his future. And that is how the situation remains to this day, according to Marca with no more official communication between Messi and Barcelona.
To provide a bit of context, the start of July was pretty tough for Leo. He and his father were convicted of tax fraud by the Provincial Court of Barcelona just a week after Messi suffered a painful defeat with Argentina in the final of the Copa América against Chile, which resulted in the shock announcement of Messi’s retirement from international football (which he has since retracted).
Football crisis and disillusionment with life in Barcelona seem like reasonable cause for Messi’s alleged desire to leave the Camp Nou. But then again, this story does seem to have been plucked from thin air, 4 months after the reported communications with Barcelona supposedly took place. It’s not so surprising then that Barcelona have given a fairly different take on events. The club claims that the story on the front page of the Madrid-based sports newspaper is revenge for Barcelona’s decision not to attend to Marca’s awards ceremony last month. The Catalan club rejected the invitation to the ceremony after the Spanish newspaper awarded their “Fair Play” prize to La Liga President Javier Tebas, who had (unjustly, according to Barca) criticized the attitude of Barcelona players (including Messi) after their celebrations in a controversial fixture against Valencia.
Rejecting Marca‘s report, Barcelona have claimed that their plan has always been to begin contract talks with Messi this coming January, when contract discussions are also set to begin with other key players such as Luis Suarez, Andrés Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic. The club has recently conceded, however, that it is yet to convince Messi to extend his contract, failing to fully extinguish the rumors linking Messi away from Catalonia. “In two month’s time we will begin contract talks with Messi.” Bartomeu told English newspaper The Telegraph recently, adding, “I don’t know what will happen in the future, but of course we will always try to explain to him that this is the best club in the world, that this is the best place for him and that he will continue to have the best experience of his life with us.” Not too convincing, really, is it?
With Marca‘s report and Bartomeu’s distinct lack of conviction, the exit door does seem to have opened wider than it has ever been before in Messi’s glittering career at Barcelona. Long-term suitors in England, Chelsea and Manchester City, who now have Messi’s former boss Pep Guardiola at their helm, will certainly not have ignored recent reports. It should be remembered, however, that we haven’t yet heard from the little man himself. Leo is the only one who really knows what his future holds and until he speaks we really should take Marca‘s front page with a pinch of salt.