Aug 26, 2020 - Sports

Lionel Messi tells Barcelona he wants to leave


Photo: Manu Fernandez/Pool via Getty Images

Lionel Messi has informed Barcelona that he intends to leave the club immediately, an earth-shattering development that could turn ugly.

Why it matters: Arguably the greatest player in soccer history wants to leave the only club he's ever known — a club he helped transform into one of the most popular and valuable franchises in the world.

The backdrop: The announcement comes just over a week after Barcelona's humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals — a defeat that capped the club's first season without a title since 2007-08.

  • Barcelona has been dealing with off-field dysfunction all year, and the club descended into yet another bout of internal turmoil this past week.
  • Manager Quique Setién and sporting director Eric Abidal both departed, and Ronald Koeman, a former player for the club, was appointed as coach.

Between the lines: Messi intends to activate a clause in his contract that would not allow Barcelona to receive a cent in compensation — evidence of how contentious things have gotten between the two sides.

The big picture: Messi joined Barcelona at 13, when an emissary from Barcelona, sent to watch him play in his hometown of Rosario, Argentina, drew up a contract on a napkin.

  • Over 16 seasons with the senior club, Messi won a record six Ballon d'Or awards and recorded more goals and assists than any player in La Liga history.
  • Barcelona's 34 titles in Messi's 16 seasons are almost double the titles the club won in the 16 seasons prior to his arrival (18).

What to watch: "Manchester City — managed by Messi's old mentor, Pep Guardiola — and PSG, home to his close friend Neymar, would be the likeliest [landing spots], ahead of Chelsea, Manchester United and even Real Madrid," the New York Times notes.

  • "Inter Milan, though less successful in recent years, has maintained a yearslong dialogue with Messi's family, and has long attempted to position itself as his first alternative."
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