After nearly two decades with Barcelona, Lionel Messi has told the club he wishes to leave this summer.
The Argentina international, 33, sent a fax to the club on Tuesday saying he wishes to exercise a clause in his contract, allowing him to leave for free with immediate effect.
This news has sent shockwaves throughout the world of football, however, the club maintains the clause expired in June and that he remains under contract until the end of the 2021 season with a 700m euro buy-out clause.
“In principal, this clause expired on 10 June, but the unusual nature of this season disrupted by the coronavirus opened the way for Messi to ask to be released from his contract now,” wrote Spanish sports daily Marca.
“It’s the first step towards opening negotiations over his departure, on the basis of which his release clause amounts to €700 million.”
Messi joined Barca’s youth academy at the age of 13 and made his debut for Barca in 2004 as a 17-year-old.
The six-time Ballon d’Or winner is the club’s record scorer with 634 goals and has won the Champions League four times.
But his future at Barca was thrown into doubt following a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarterfinals in Lisbon 11 days ago.
The humbling defeat sparked drastic changes within the club. Coach Quique Setien was sacked after barely six months in charge while sporting director Eric Abidal was also dismissed after Barca’s first season without a trophy since 2007.
After the news broke, Barca fans gathered outside the Nou Camp to protest against the board and in support of the club’s record goalscorer.