Lionel Messi on Sunday refused to turn up for a pre-season medical test at Barcelona, just days after informing the club that he intends to exercise a clause in his contract to leave the club on a free transfer this summer. The development means Messi won’t be joining Ronald Koeman’s side for its first pre-season training session on Monday. It adds further fuel to reports that the Argentine’s announcement of his decision to leave Barcelona is not just an attempt at getting unpopular club president Josep Maria Bartomeu out of office. Here we take a look at how things currently stand.
Why did Messi not turn up for his pre-season medical test on Sunday?
Messi already declared that he won’t take the medical, or join pre-season training when he informed the club in a letter that he intended to terminate his contract.
Attending the test and joining Barcelona for training would weaken Messi’s legal case if the matter does go to court.
Can he unilaterally terminate his Barcelona contract?
According to the latest contract Messi signed with Barcelona in 2017, the player has the power to terminate his four-year contract a year before expiry. However, the cut-off date for declaring that was June 10, 2020, keeping in mind that the European season was originally scheduled to end by that date.
This did not happen because of the pandemic, and the season finally ended on August 23. Messi and his legal team are likely to argue that since the season was extended, the June 10 cut-off date is irrelevant.
What is Barcelona’s position on the matter?
According to media reports, Barcelona are adamant that Messi cannot terminate his contract that runs till next year and will be allowed to leave the club only if his release clause of €700 million is met.
However, fresh reports on Saturday night claimed that the €700 million release clause expired at the end of the 2019/20 season, weakening Barcelona’s position. On Sunday, La Liga backed the club saying the contract was still valid and cannot be “terminated unilaterally” by the player.
What are Messi’s options now?
He may have to prepare for a legal battle against his club. He could, in more likelihood, sit on the negotiating table with Barcelona and try and arrange his departure with a realistic and mutually agreeable transfer fee. An unlikely but not entirely impossible scenario could be Messi signing for a new club before reaching any understanding with Barcelona. This would almost undoubtedly lead to Barcelona suing Messi for a breach of contract.
Which courts can Messi/Barcelona approach?
Given Messi’s interpretation that he is free to terminate his contract, it is not clear if he will file a lawsuit against Barcelona. The club may exercise the option to do so, however, if Messi remains adamant on not turning up at the club or ends up signing for another club. FIFA can be an adjudicator in this matter if Messi signs for a new club, according to Agustin Amoros Martinez, an eminent Spanish sports lawyer.
A FIFA verdict can be challenged at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).