Lionel Messi handed in a transfer request after new Barcelona boss Ronald Koeman told him his ‘privileges in the squad were over’ in showdown talks about his future.
Manchester City, Inter Milan and Paris-Saint German are leading the race to sign the Argentinian star this summer but will have to part with an eye-watering sum to land their man, according to AS.
Messi has a clause in his contract allowing him to move for free provided he informed the club he wanted to leave 20 days prior to June 10 – which was initially the end of season date.
The 33-year-old’s legal advisers are however arguing that he should have had an extended period to indicate he wanted out as the ‘end of the season’ this year was the final of the Champions League between Bayern Munich and PSG on August 23.
Messi is desperate for a new challenge but realises few clubs will be able to finance a move for him and so is exploring the possibility of departing for free despite having one year left on his deal.
It is understood Messi only made it clear that he wanted to sign for another club this summer in the days leading up to Sunday’s final, and Barcelona are confident he would not have a legal case if they denied his exit.
Barcelona know it will be impossible to keep hold of Messi but are not willing to allow him to leave for free and are seeking a world-record fee of £200m.
AS report that Barcelona are desperately trying to avoid taking Messi to court and have told him he can go but their valuation needs to be met first.
Reports in Spain claim Messi has already held conversations with his former boss Pep Guardiola about the prospects of moving to Manchester City.
Messi and Guardiola have fond memories of working together, having enjoyed a trophy-laden four years at Barcelona but Manchester United are also in the running for his signature