Lionel Messi’s future at Barcelona did not appear to be closer to a solution after the first meeting between the player’s father and club officials ended on Wednesday without an agreement, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
The person said club president Josep Bartomeu had met with Jorge Messi for more than 90 minutes to discuss the Argentine star’s request to leave the club, but neither side had made any concessions.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly about the private meeting.
Lionel Messi said in Barcelona last week that he wanted to leave the club, citing a contract clause that allowed him to leave the club for free at the end of the season. However, Barcelona claimed that the clause expired in June and said he would have to phase out his contract by June 2021 unless the exit clause of 700 million euros (837 million dollars) was paid.
Barcelona official Javier Bordas and Messi’s brother Rodrigo also attended the meeting. A lawyer for the Messi family was also present. At the meeting, which was described as cordial, all parts made their positions clear – Jorge Messi said the player wanted to leave and Barcelona said it would not accept his transfer request.
A further meeting was not immediately scheduled, and the next steps were unclear.
Barcelona said they still hoped Lionel Messi could change his mind about the departure.
The player’s representatives claim that the clause allowing him to leave the club should still be valid as the season has been postponed by the Coronavirus pandemic. Barcelona confirmed they will tie the player to his contract.
Jorge Messi, who is also Messi’s representative, was very eloquent when he arrived in Spain from Argentina early on Wednesday.
“I don’t know anything,” Jorge Messi said in brief comments after being questioned at the airport.
Spanish television station Cuatro later reported that Jorge Messi said it was “difficult” for his son to stay in Barcelona. He did not elaborate.
Barcelona have said it will not make it easier for Messi to leave and will only negotiate a contract extension. The club have offered the Argentine a two-year extension that would keep him at Barcelona until the 2022-23 season.
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In addition to meeting Messi’s father, Barcelona said they also wanted to meet in person with the player to try to change his mind about the exit. The club said they had done everything possible to convince Messi to end his career at the club he started almost 20 years ago.
Lionel Messi has not met with club officials since announcing his decision to leave the club and has not spoken publicly since Barcelona’s 8-2 defeat by Bayern Munich in the Champions League quarter-finals on 14 August. That defeat capped a difficult season for the club, the first without a title since 2007-08.
The 33-year-old Messi had spoken out openly against club officials during the season and has not appeared at the club since the squad returned to training on Monday. He also omitted the required coronavirus tests the team completed on Sunday.
Barcelona did not say whether it would take any action against the player because of his absence.
Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos said Messi’s decision was not “something that affects us,” but he hoped the rival player would stay with Barcelona.
“He has earned the right to decide his future,” Ramos said. “I don’t know if he’ll do it the best, but of course we want him to stay for Spanish football, for Barcelona and for us, who we like to win and play against the best. He makes the league and Barcelona better, and he makes the ‘clasicos’ more beautiful.”
Messi’s Barcelona team-mate Frenkie de Jong said he was in the dark like everyone else.
“There’s a kind of chaos now, a lot of things are going on,” said De Jong, who plays for the Dutch national team. “But I haven’t spoken to Messi personally or to the club. When I arrive in Barcelona after this week, I will see how it goes and what really happens. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Barcelona are due to start their season against Villarreal in the Spanish league at the end of the month.